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THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A 
WORKING WOMAN 



LlBRAf?Y 

UNIVERSITY Of 
CAUfORNIA 

SAN DIEGO 




AUELHEIU POPP. 



^lil^T. 



THE 

AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 
A WORKING WOMAN 

By ADELHEID POPP 



TRANSLATED BY 

E. C. HARVEY 



WITH INTEODUCTIONS BY 

AUGU«T BEBEL axd J. RAMSAY MACDONALD, M.P. 

AND TWO PORTRAITS 



T. FISHER UNWIN 

LONDON: ADELPHI TERRACE 

LEIPSIC: INSELSTRASSE 20 

1912 



[Al/ rights resen'ed.l 




MARGARET MACDONALD, I9OO, WITH HER CHILD, ALISTER. 



INTRODUCTION TO THE 
ENGLISH EDITION 

One of the last acts of my wife's life was 
to arrange with Mr Unwin for the publica- 
tion of this book. She had come across it 
in its original German ; she knew Frau Popp, 
whose hard life it unveils, and I well remember 
how both the story and the woman captivated 
her. She was to have written this introduc- 
tion, but that was one of her many projects 
that will have to be carried out by others 
or remain altogether undone. She was in 
correspondence with Frau Popp when she 
died, and some of the material which I shall 
use came to her after her eyes were closed 
for ever and her heart could respond no more 
to earthly things. If it be that she still 
follows our interests, I know nothing will 
please her more than that this tale of the 
struggle of her friend should be given to 
English readers, associated with her name 
and memory. 

She, like the rest of us Socialists, had 
5 



INTRODUCTION TO THE ENGLISH EDITION 

a passion for international friendship, and 
one of her most cherished dreams was to 
bring the Socialist women of this country 
into fraternal and vital touch with the Conti- 
nental women. No jaunt filled her with more 
child-like joy than the jaunts to Amsterdam, 
to Stuttgart, and to Copenhagen, where the 
International Congresses of Socialism have 
been held recently, and at these Congresses 
no one worked more strenuously than she did 
to establish a communion of mind between 
the Continental women and our own. At 
one of these Congresses she met Frau Popp, 
one of those devoted women whose thin, 
worn face was beautiful because it told not 
only of physical suffering but of spiritual 
triumph. 

Socialism amongst the women of the 
Continent is more dogmatic, more aggressive, 
than it is amongst ours, and that came out 
at these Congresses. Storms blew — hurri- 
canes sometimes struck the meetings in full 
blast ; but the revisionist British contin- 
gent pursued its way steadily and persistently. 
The movement in this country had to be 
organised properly so that it might not be 
misinterpreted abroad, and this was done 
shortly before my wife's death, and mainly 
by her own labours. Then the movement 
abroad had to be interpreted to us. The 

6 



INTRODUCTION TO THE ENGLISH EDITION 

lot of the working women here is hard, but 
on the Continent in some respects it is 
harder. The grey veiling light of our moist 
atmosphere, which softens our landscapes and 
smooths out the hard outlines of division 
between object and object, seems to have 
a counterpart in our mental world, and that 
is not found abroad so much. Saint and 
sinner there stand in opposite well-defined 
camps with no neutral territory between, 
with no common meeting-ground where an 
evening can be spent under a truce, and where 
beneath the shadow of the olive-trees enemies 
may become friends. Here there are many 
such meeting places. Together we often 
discussed that. When my wife was reading 
this book for the first time, she told me 
that it explained so much to her, and that, 
had her lot been that which is here told, 
she would have considered it to be her 
mission to curse with a hardness and a bitter- 
ness of heart the society under which she 
was born. " We must have it in English," 
she said. '* And if every rich and contented 
woman in the land would but read it, how 
wise she would become." 

That will not happen. But it is a human 
document, written with that simplicity which 
is art triumphant. The tale needs no 
adornment of rhetoric and no pointing of 

7 



INTRODUCTION TO THE ENGLISH EDITION 

morals. It is a chapter torn from the book 
of life, written as nature writes, and left 
to produce its own effects on the mind of 
whosoever will read. The critic of Socialist 
doings and opinions whose life has been 
as " a weel gaun mill," and whose mind 
is like a stagnant backwater, has an easy 
task when he sagely shakes his head over 
the struggling eddies, the baffling currents, 
and the splashy wavelets on the life of those 
who are unhappy with fate, and who dream 
of a fairer and juster world and imagine 
that they can make their dreams come true ; 
but this book will explain many mysteries 
to such a mind, and reveal many things 
unmercifully hidden from it. " I remember 
no tender words," Frau Popp says of her 
youth, and one shivers as though looking 
back over a desert which has just been 
crossed. But romance, defying the barren- 
ness of that youth, comes like a flower into 
her life, and in her penury and distress she 
begins to sigh over "unhappy queens." Then 
she sighs over something more real and 
more tragical — her fellow workers. 

Adelheid Popp was born in 1869 at 
Inzerschorf, near Vienna. At eight she 
was earning money which was necessary for 
family income. In 1891 she made the speech 
to which she refers in this book, and three 

8 



INTRODUCTION TO THE ENGLISH EDITION 

years later she married. Two years before 
that she had been appointed Editor of one 
of the most influential women's papers 
published, the Arbeiterinnen Zeitung (Work- 
ing Women's Newspaper), a Socialist organ. 
Amongst the many other positions she now 
holds is that of membership of the Managing 
Committee of the German Social Democracy 
in her native country. She has written much, 
and has been still more active on the platform. 
Altogether she is one of the most respected 
and influential of the Socialist women leaders 
on the Continent. Amongst Trade Unionists 
she is held in equal esteem, and the women's 
organisations are largely her creation. With 
all these cares and duties she manages the 
little family of two, which her husband left 
under her charge when he died in 1902, with 
a watchful affection which shows to those 
who know her privately how compatible 
public and domestic work are, and how she 
who seeks to mend the world is very often 
the woman who is most solicitous in guarding 
her own hearth. 

J. RAMSAY MACDONALD. 



INTRODUCTION TO THE GERMAN 
EDITION 

When the pastor without a pastorate, our 
present comrade, Goehre, in the beginning of 
the "nineties" brought out his work, "A 
Factory Worker for Three Months," in which 
he gives his experiences of the three months 
during which he played the part of a factory 
worker, one of the largest and most Conser- 
vative newspapers confessed that " we were 
better acquainted with the conditions of life of 
the half savage African tribes than with those 
of our own people." 

This verdict might also be applied to the 
contents of the present work. It opens to 
the higher classes of the community a per- 
fectly new world, but a world of such sorrow, 
misery, and such moral and spiritual depriva- 
tion, that we ask how such an existence 
is possible in our nation, so proud of its 
Christianity and civilisation. 

The authoress portrays for us the lowest 
class on which our society is built — a class 
into which she was born and among which she 
lived for half a generation. 

10 



INfRODUCTION TO THE GERMAN EDITION 

But we also see how in spite of her wretched 
environment she was able to set herself free, 
and working upwards to become a pioneer of 
her sex, esteemed and recognised as such to- 
day by all who know her. 

I have seldom read a book with deeper 
emotion than this one of our comrade's. She 
pictures in burning colours the sufferings, the 
deprivations, and moral injuries of the life to 
which she as a poor child of the people was 
exposed, and which she, as a woman of the 
people, experienced doubly and to the bitter 
end. 

She passes her childhood in a home which 
is not fit to be described as human ; she 
possesses a father who is a drunkard and has 
no love for his family ; she has a mother who 
is indeed good and diligent, who toils and 
drudges away all day long to keep her family 
above water, but who from anxiety for their 
daily maintenance, and in consequence of her 
poverty-stricken bringing up, is not only in- 
different, but inimical, to all spiritual interests, 
and cannot comprehend the struggles of her 
daughter to free herself from that lot unworthy 
of a human being into which fate has thrust her. 

And she attained this freedom by her own 
strength, by strenuous diligence and untiring 
self-culture. She fills up the gaps in her scanty 
school education in an astonishing manner. 

11 



INTRODUCTION TO THE GERMAN EDITION 

She bursts the bonds of the church in which 
she was fettered in her childhood, and becomes 
a free-thinker ; the reverential believer in a 
monarchy becomes a republican ; and the hard 
misery and experience of her life make her an 
enthusiastic Socialist and a champion for the 
emancipation of the whole proletariat. 

Her life is thus an example for the imitation 
of many. She says, rightly, at the end of the 
narrative of her life that courage and self- 
confidence are necessary in order to make 
something of oneself. Many a fellow-worker 
could accomplish similar work if she were 
filled with zeal and enthusiasm for Socialism, 
striving to set mankind free. 

I have one fault to find with the work — 
namely, that the authoress conceals her name 
from unjustifiable modesty. It will certainly 
not remain a secret, and I should consider 
it would be more effective for the circulation 
of the book if she, whose name everybody 
knows, would say openly : "So was I once, 
so am I now. I was impelled to do what I 
did ; you others could do the same if you only 
wished." 

May the circulation of this book run into 
its tens of thousands ! 

A. BEBEL. 

SCHONEBERG, BERLIN, 
22nd February 1910. 

12 



PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION 
By the Author 

I HAVE to thank August Bebel most heartily 
for undertaking the responsibility of publishing 
the story of my youth, and for guaranteeing 
the genuineness of the representation and the 
accuracy of the narrative. He dissuaded me 
from letting the book appear without my name. 
It was not exaggerated modesty, as he supposes, 
which stopped my coming forward with the 
story of my youth under my own name. I did 
not write the narrative because I esteemed it 
of some individual importance, but, on the 
contrary, because I recognised in my lot that 
of hundreds of thousands of the women and 
girls of the working class, because I saw great 
social phenomena at work in what surrounded 
me and brought me into difficult situations. I 
was not mistaken, as is proved by the numerous 
letters which I received from working women 
who see in my lot an image of their own. 

When the second edition of this little book 
appeared, friends advised me no longer to 
withhold my name, as it had already become 
known, with no unfriendly intention, even if 
against my wish. But I refused, because I 

13 



PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION 

still hoped that the little book would have an 
effect as the autobiography of one working 
woman, which is at the same time that of 
hundreds of thousands. Now when the third 
edition is going forth I cannot help thinking 
that my purpose might not be understood, that 
readers will not understand why the little book 
does not bear my name, as the authorship is 
known to a far wider circle than I could have 
supposed. Now that my name stands in the 
book I need not keep silence on many a point 
which I did not introduce before because I 
feared that the authorship might thereby be 
discovered. I have been able to suppress in 
the third edition many passages which were 
to mislead friends and comrades from guessing 
at the author's name. Instead of these I have 
introduced new material. Fresh personages 
step into the circle of my narrative. I have 
mentioned my all too short married life, not 
in order to speak about myself, but to show 
by my individual experience that the public 
activity of a woman must not be hampered by 
her marriage and duties as wife and mother. 
This is connected with one of the greatest 
problems of the woman's question, one of the 
most important preliminaries in the discussion 
as to the qualifications of woman for perfect 
political and social equality with men. 

ADELHEID POPP. 
22nii February i<)io. 

14 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A 
WORKING WOMAN 

Most persons, if they have grown up under 
normal conditions, look back in times of heavy- 
distress, with gratitude and emotion to their 
happy, beautiful, careless youth, and sigh, 
perhaps wishing : "If it could only come 
again ! " 

I face the recollections of my childhood 
with other feelings. I knew no point of 
brightness, no ray of sunshine, nothing of a 
comfortable home in which motherly love and 
care guided my childhood. In spite of this 
I had a good, self-sacrificing mother, who 
allowed herself no time for rest and quiet, 
always driven by necessity and her own 
desire to bring up her children honestly and 
to guard them from hunger. What I recollect 
of my childhood is so gloomy and hard, and so 
firmly rooted in my consciousness, that it will 
never leave me. I knew nothing of what 

16 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

delights other children and causes them to 
shout for joy — dolls, playthings, fairy stories, 
sweetmeats, and Christmas-trees, I only knew 
the great room in which we worked, slept, 
ate, and quarrelled. I remember no tender 
words, no kisses, but only the anguish which 
I endured as I crept into a corner or under 
the bed when a domestic scene took place, 
when my father brought home too little money 
and my mother reproached him. My father 
had a hasty temper ; when roused he would 
beat my mother, who often had to flee half 
clad to take shelter with some neighbour. 
Then we were some days alone with the 
scolding father, whom we dared not approach. 
We did not get much to eat then ; pitying 
neighbours would help us till our mother 
returned, impelled by anxiety for her children 
and household. Such scenes occurred nearly 
every month, and sometimes oftener. My 
whole heart clung to my mother ; I had an 
unconquerable dread of my father, and I never 
remember to have spoken to him or to have 
been addressed by him. My mother told me 
later that he was vexed because I, the only 
girl of five to live, had dark eyes like hers. 
I can still remember one Christmas Eve 
when I was not quite five years old. For 
this once I nearly obtained a Christmas-tree. 
My mother wanted just once to show me, her 

16 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

youngest child, what the Christ Child was. 
For many weeks she had constantly striven 
to save a few farthings in order to buy me 
some little cooking utensils. The Christmas- 
tree was adorned with chains of coloured 
paper, gilded nuts, and hung with modest 
playthings. We waited for our father to 
light the candles ; he had gone to the factory 
to deliver some goods. He was to bring 
money home. Six o'clock struck, then seven, 
then eight — our father did not come. We 
were all hungry and wanted our supper. We 
were obliged to eat the nice poppy balls, 
apples, and nuts, to eat without our father, 
after which I went to bed without seeing the 
candles burn on the Christmas-tree. My 
mother was too much put out and anxious 
to light up the tree. I lay sleepless in my 
bed. I had looked forward so much to the 
Christ Child, and now he stayed away. At 
last I heard my father come ; he was not 
received kindly, and another angry scene took 
place. He had brought less money than my 
mother expected, for he had visited a public- 
house on his way. He had nearly six miles 
to go, and he wanted to warm himself. He 
had then sat longer than he intended, and 
came home tipsy. At the noise which ensued 
I looked from my sleeping place — and then I 
saw how my father cut the Christmas-tree to 

17 B 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

pieces with a hatchet. I dared not scream ; I 
only wept — wept till I fell asleep. 

The next day my father felt some pity for 
me, for he gave me a few pence to buy tin 
kitchen things for myself. Compassionate 
persons gave me an old doll and playthings 
of their children's which had been discarded 
for other, more beautiful gifts. 

And I can remember one other Christmas 
present. When I was a school-girl, a rich 
man, who possessed a great factory in which 
several hundred men and women worked, 
instituted a presentation of Christmas gifts 
for poor school children. I belonged to the 
fortunate ones who were presented with sweet- 
meats and articles of clothing. The great, 
giant fir-tree gave more light than I had 
ever seen, and the feast given us made us 
all happy. How grateful I was to the good, 
rich man who had such a compassionate heart 
for the poor. When my widowed mother 
later was obligfed to work for twelve hours 
a-day in his factory at a weekly wage of six 
shillings, I could not believe that therein lay 
the source of his generosity. 

I only attained this knowledge much later. 

My father was struck with a malignant 
illness — cancer — which brought us into great 
poverty. He would not remain in the hospital ; 
IS 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

but he was obliged to have medical help and 
medicines, and these swallowed up nearly all our 
earnings, and our circumstances became worse 
and worse. As often as I was sent to the 
chemist's with a prescription my mother com- 
plained as to how long it would last. One 
day he was so ill that the clergyman was 
fetched to confess him and to give him the 
last sacraments. That was a great event for 
me. All the inmates of the house knelt in 
our room and we with them. The smell of 
the incense filled the air, and the sobs of my 
mother were audible between the prayers. 
My father died a few hours later. My mother 
never forgot that he died without a word of 
reconciliation with her or of remembrance 
for his children. 

I felt no sorrow when I wore the black 
clothes, the hat and veil lent me by a well- 
to-do family ; I rather felt a sense of satis- 
faction at being so well dressed for once. 

My mother was now the breadwinner for 
her five children. My eldest brother was 
indeed eighteen years old, but he could be 
no support to us, as he had learned a trade 
that was decaying. He resolved to try his 
fortune abroad, and went off. Two brothers, 
who till now had worked with their father, 
were apprenticed ; the youngest, a child of 
ten, went to school. 

19 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

My mother had great strength of will and 
much innate good sense. She was inspired 
with a wish to show that a mother can also 
provide for her children. Her task was most 
difficult, as she had learned nothing but 
domestic work. An orphan early, she had 
gone out to service at six years old ; she had 
never been to school, and could, therefore, 
neither read nor write. She was also an 
enemy of the "new-fangled laws," as she 
called compulsory education. She considered 
it unjust for other men to dictate to parents 
what they were to do for their children. On 
this point my father had sympathised with her, 
and my brothers, when ten years old, had to 
help him in his work-weaving. Three years' 
schooling was sufficient, according to my 
parents' ideas ; one of their frequent sayings 
was that he who had learned nothing when 
ten years old would learn nothing later. My 
youngest brother must now leave school ; but 
meanwhile the law as to school attendance 
had become more firmly established, and the 
school authorities made difficulties. After 
many visits, my mother succeeded in getting 
permission for him to leave school and go 
into a factory as an assistant. 

My brother was a diligent boy, and strove 
to earn as much 'as possible. He worked 
overtime till late in the evening, and in the 

20 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

summer went on Sundays to act as a skittle 
boy — to set up ninepins — for which he was also 
paid. He was thus all Sunday, often into the 
night, at public-houses, and was a witness of 
the wild orgies which usually form the end 
of such Sunday pleasures. In the" hunting 
season he went with other boys as beaters 
for hare-hunting. Later he was apprenticed 
in our village, where he was very comfortable. 
One day he came home complaining — he had 
fallen on the ice and hurt his knee. That 
was for him the beginning of a very painful, 
lingering illness. 

When the pain became increasingly severe 
he had to be taken to a hospital, from which 
he returned home in a few weeks. He went 
again to work ; then a small lump came near 
his left ribs, which grew to the size of an eggy 
and one day broke whilst he was at work. 

Now a bad time began for him and for all 
of us. There was the sick brother, and no 
wages coming into the house. My mother 
had no work, and the brother next to the 
youngest had run away frons his master 
because he had been so cruelly treated. This 
was in a winter, too, in which no snow fell for 
a long time, so that nothing could be earned 
by sweeping away this bread from heaven. 
My mother shirked no trouble in order to 
find work. Sometimes she would wash clothes 

21 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

somewhere, and then I had to go to her at 
noon and she would share her meal with me. 
We used to fetch from the restaurants the 
water in which the sausages were cooked ; 
this with bread made an excellent tasty soup 
for us. My sick brother received from com- 
passionate neighbours soup and many other 
good things. All tried to cure him. All good 
and bad household remedies were tried. My 
mother brought an ointment from the town, 
which had been prepared by an old woman 
and was to have wonderful results. Others 
came and laid dry, pounded plums, mixed 
with sugar, on his wounds. Herb baths were 
made for him, so-called sympathetic treatments 
were tried — all in vain ; his wounds did not 
heal. Then I was obliged to begin to help 
earn. I knitted stockings for other people, 
and ran messages. We worked at anything 
that was offered us to avoid succumbing to 
our need. 

When the brother next to the youngest at 
last found work with a mother-of-pearl worker, 
I was bidden there to mind the children. 
Finally I was taught how to sew on buttons, 
and I now sewed mother-of-pearl buttons on 
to silver and gold paper. That was always 
my occupation when I was out of school or 
during the holidays. When I had sewn on 
144 buttons (a gross) I had earned one and a 

22 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

half Kreuzer (nearly a farthing and a half). 
I never managed to earn more than twenty- 
seven Kreuzer in a week. 

On New Year's Day I had to go round 
our village and the neigbourhood wishing 
people a Happy New Year. This was a 
custom practised by the poorest of our popu- 
lation. We only went to families known to 
be rich or comfortably off and expressed our 
good wishes for the New Year, for which we 
received a reward. I was terribly afraid of 
the dogs that guarded the houses of the rich ; 
but I was also eager to bring home as much 
money as possible. I often went to a door 
from which another child was coming out on 
the same unsuitable errand. If a schoolfellow 
died in one of the better-off families, a number 
of poor children were chosen, who followed the 
coffin in a special procession. For that we 
received a payment of ten Kreuzer. Once 
when I could not go to school on account of 
my bad shoes the schoolmistress sent word 
that I ought nevertheless to go to the funeral 
of a rich schoolfellow, as I should receive for 
this mark of sympathy the small sum arranged. 
And I walked along the long, dirty, soaking 
road in shoes that had no soles to gain these 
few pence. 

At this time, when we were in such great 
poverty, we heard a good deal of talk about a 

23 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

duchess who lived in a castle in a village about 
three miles off. People spoke much of her 
benevolence. She was said to have already 
made many men happy by her generosity. All 
that I had heard in fairy tales seemed em- 
bodied in this woman. My mother had a 
petition written, to be signed by the burgo- 
master and the pastor. It was not long before 
we received a gift of ten shillings. My 
mother was extremely happy at this help, 
and wondered how she could send her thanks 
for it. 

The question was now debated as to 
whether I might not receive shoes if the 
Duchess knew how bad mine were, I was 
made to write a letter, which ran somewhat 
after this fashion : — 

" Most Gracious Duchess, — As my mother 
does not know how to write, I am writing 
to tell you that she wishes to thank you most 
humbly for the five florins. I am ten years 
old, and often cannot go to school because I 
have no shoes. And I like going to school 
so much." 

I expected a message from the Duchess 
from day to day, as from a fairy bringing a 
fortune. And it came. A message came 
that I should go to the headmistress of the 
village where the castle was. She sent me 

24 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

to a shoemaker, who took my measure for 
new shoes. A week later I was to fetch 
them from the castle. The schoolmistress 
taught me beforehand that I should say 
"Your Grace," or if I could not remember 
the words, " Most gracious Lady." 

And so I tramped thither over the road, 
half covered with snow, that led to the castle. 
I wore wooden shoes on my feet, a green 
dress, and over my thin jacket I had fastened 
a shawl of my mother's. Excited, my heart 
beating anxiously, I approached the castle 
through the grove of magnificent, ancient 
trees. Even the walls which surrounded it 
inspired me with feelings which I should 
describe to-day, perhaps, as feelings of nervous 
awe. The porter, as the people called him, 
let me in, and sent me up a broad, magnificent 
staircase. Carpets were laid down such as I 
had never seen in any house, green plants 
adorned the walls. A gentleman received 
me at the top, who was magnificently dressed. 
He wore stockings to his knees and a coat 
trimmed with gold lace. That must be the 
Duke, I thought, and I hastened to kiss his 
hand as my mother had impressed on me 
to do. He turned away, and I learned later 
that he was the groom of the chambers. He 
led me on, and we passed a door through 
whose panels I saw a girl who looked just 

25 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

like me. She was dressed in a similar green 
frock, and had just such a shawl as mine. 
On her feet she had exactly the same wooden 
shoes as I wore. The girl had also eyes and 
hair as dark as mine. 

I told my mother about it, and we racked 
our brains to think who it could be. As we 
had no notion of doors with mirrors let in 
them — for I had seen myself in one — we did 
not guess the riddle. The groom told me 
to wait in a corridor adorned with pictures. 
Soon a young lady appeared, who seemed to 
me as beautiful as an angel. She took me 
kindly by the hand, and led me into a great 
room whose walls were lined with books. 
For the first time I stood on a floor that 
was as slippery to walk upon as ice. The 
Duchess put me on a chair, and herself 
brought from an adjoining room the shoes 
destined for me, which I put on at her com- 
mand. She pitied me on account of my thin 
jacket, and gave me a card, which I was to 
take to the schoolmistress, and which contained 
an order to have a warm jacket made for me. 
When I fetched the jacket the Duchess asked 
me about our circumstances, and I told her of 
my sick brother. She promised to send a 
doctor, and gave me money for my mother. 
As I gave a joyous assent to the question 
as to whether I enjoyed reading, she sent 

26 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

me books — one great book, beautifully bound, 
of which, strange to say, I have forgotten the 
title. A single sentence remains in my 
memory of the tale, " The Stolen Treasure." 
Then there was a book of Ottilie Wildermut's, 
with wonderfully beautiful pictures. Alas ! I 
was obliged to sell the books when poverty 
and hunger again visited our home. I would 
willingly have bought them back later when I 
could judge of the educative value of books ; 
but all my endeavours were vain. The 
Duchess kept her promise and sent her 
physician to my brother. The sad result of 
the examination was that he decided the home 
nursing was insufficient, and recommended the 
infirmary as the only place for saving him. 
And so it happened. My brother lay for more 
than a year on a water bed. Only so could he 
bear his ever increasing pain. His poor body 
looked fearful. He was very comfortable in 
the infirmary. They all treated him kindly, 
and he could not talk enough of all the many 
good things he had to eat. Everybody loved 
him. Other patients, when they left the 
hospital cured, used to come with presents 
for him. His nurses decorated his bed with 
flowers when he had been in it three hundred 
days. Everybody presented him with gifts. 
Yet he longed to come home again. He 
often begged us to write to the Duchess to 

27 



AUTOBIOGRAPHV OF A WORKING WOMAN 

take charge of him so that he might be with 
his mother. But we knew from the doctors 
that this was quite out of the question, and 
so we pacified him again. One day one of 
his nurses came to tell us that he was free 
from his terrible sufferings. He was buried 
in a pauper's coffin. 

My mother had received work in the spring 
in the garden of the Duchess, by which our 
situation was somewhat improved. But now 
my many faulty attendances at school were 
punished. As my mother could not write, 
I had not often had a written excuse for my 
absence. The school authorities had had a 
return of the attendances, and my mother was 
condemned to twelve hours' imprisonment. 
As she had now work, she neglected to comply 
with the injunction to take her place for the 
"punishment." She also deemed it incredible 
that they would imprison her, an honest woman, 
who had always conducted herself honourably. 
But at six o'clock in the morning on Easter 
Saturday two policemen appeared and took 
her away. She was almost out of her mind 
at having such shame put upon her as being 
forced to walk through the streets between 
two policemen. She could only find comfort 
in the knowledge that her whole life was 
spotless and pure. Afterwards she was bidden 
to the headmaster, and he represented to her 

28 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

that she ought to send me regularly to school, 
as I was very gifted. She was also assured 
that "something might be made of me." My 
guardian was also made to come. But he 
contented himself with admonishing me to be 
good and pious. But of what use was it to 
go to school when I had neither clothes nor 
food ? 

When this year's schooling was over, my 
mother decided to migrate to the town. I 
was now ten years and five months old, and 
I was no longer to go to school, but to work. 
People dissuaded my mother from moving ; 
they thought that if we remained in our 
village the Duchess might have me taught 
something. And really I had imagined it 
in my dreams. I had already pictured myself 
as a housemaid, as I was told the girl was 
called whom I often saw at the castle, prettily 
dressed with charming white aprons and 
ribbons. I would also have liked to be a 
schoolmistress, and I saw my ideal in my 
schoolmistress — a pretty, graceful girl, whose 
tasteful dress I had often admired. For a 
long time all sorts of fantastic ideas had 
pursued me, which all depended on the 
Duchess. As I had to work diligently all 
day, I was always thinking of her, and I 
dreamed that she would remember me, and 
appear to me, as in a fairy tale, bringing 

29 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

abundance of happiness and splendid things. 
These dreams remained dreams. 

I do not know now why all intercourse 
with the castle ceased, why all the kindnesses 
we received came to an end. The one 
thing I still know is that we had many 
wants. Report made the few florins we 
received here and there into great riches. 
People prized the sympathy the Duchess 
showed us so highly that other poor women 
came to ask me to write petitions. The 
Duchess recognised my handwriting in the 
petitions of others, and asked me questions 
about the petitioners, who afterwards received 
substantial assistance. Then a report spread 
that the Duchess had been told we no longer 
needed help, as my mother had well-to-do 
sons. My mother went herself to the castle 
to contradict this report ; but if suspicion is 
once aroused, it is very hard to allay it. My 
well-to-do brothers ! Where and what were 
they ? The one was a mechanic's assistant 
on the tramp ; the second was serving a five 
years' apprenticeship in a distant village ; a 
third was at home, and worked as a mother- 
of-pearl turner ; and poor Albert was dying. 
It was said that the Duchess had often been 
taken in. Many stories were told of the 
experiences she had in visiting the homes 
of those who had begged for help in order 

30 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

to prove the genuineness of their stories. 
Thus, they said, she once went to a family 
who had described their need to her, and 
found them all feasting on roast goose. That 
is not always a sign of being well off, as I 
know from my own experience. I ate my 
first chicken when things were at a very 
low ebb with us. We had bought it at a 
great poulterer's shop, where they sold poor 
people the chickens that had died for a few 
pence. One New Year's Day my mother 
bought an old fowl for making soup for five- 
pence. Possibly something like this happened 
with the roast goose. 

The Duchess had disappeared out of 
my life. 

I received my removal certificate at school, 
which declared that I was ready to go into 
the fourth class of the elementary school. 
This was my sole equipment for the life of 
work which I was now to begin. No one 
protested against my being withdrawn from 
the legal eight years of school attendance. I 
was not registered on the police books. As 
my mother could not write, I was obliged to 
fill up the registration form. I ought, of 
course, to have entered myself under the 
heading " Children," but as I did not consider 
myself a child — I was a working woman — I 

31 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

left this heading not filled in, and remained 
unregistered by the police. Other people 
did not observe this omission. 

We moved to the town, to an old married 
couple's, into a little room, in one corner 
of which was their bed, and in another my 
mother's and mine. I was taken into a 
workshop where I learned to crochet shawls. 
I earned from fivepence to sixpence a-day, 
working diligently for twelve hours. If I 
took home work to do at night, it was a 
few farthings more. I used to run to my 
work at six o'clock in the morning, when 
other children of my age were still sleeping. 
And they were going to bed, well fed and 
cared for, when I was hastening home at 
eight in the evening. Whilst I sat bent 
over my work, making one row of stitches 
after another, they played, or went for a walk 
or to school. I took my lot then as a matter 
of course ; only one eager desire came to me 
again and again — ^just for once to have my 
sleep out. I wanted to sleep till I woke of 
my accord — that seemed to me to be a most 
splendid and beautiful thing. If I had some- 
times the good fortune to be able to sleep 
on, it was indeed no happiness, for want of 
work or illness was the reason for it. How 
often on cold winter days, when my fingers 
were so stiff in the evening that I could 

32 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

no longer move my needle, I went to bed 
with the consciousness that I must wake up 
all the earlier. Then after my mother had 
wakened me she gave me a chair in the bed, 
so that I might keep my feet warm, and I 
crocheted on from where I had left off the 
previous evening. In later years a feeling 
of unmeasured bitterness has overwhelmed 
me, because I knew nothing, really nothing, 
of childish joys and youthful happiness. 

The old couple with whom we lived were 
of very doubtful character. The woman 
lived by telling young girls and women their 
fortune by cards. She let me see into my 
future, which she painted in the most beautiful 
colours by means of the cards. This woman 
might have had great influence over me. 
She flattered me — a child ten years old — 
decked me with ribbons, and gave me sweet- 
meats. I might always have them all, she 
assured me, only my mother must know 
nothing about them. She ' urged me to do 
many things which I dared not venture to do 
because they seemed to me wrong. Fortun- 
ately my mother was suspicious, and we 
hired a tiny room which we had to ourselves. 
My younger brother also came to us, and 
brought a friend with whom he shared his 
bed. So we were four persons in a room 
which had not even a window, but which 

33 c 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

was lighted by panes of glass in the door. 
Once when a servant girl we knew was out 
of a situation, she came to us and slept with 
my mother, and I had to lie at their feet 
with mine on a chair pushed against the 
bed. 

I crocheted shawls for a year, and learned to 
know a number of workshops ; for when we 
heard that a farthing more a shawl was paid 
elsewhere, I was obliged to go there. I was 
thus always in fresh surroundings and among 
different persons, and could not get properly 
accustomed to any place. I also obtained an 
insight into many family histories. The pro- 
ceeds of the sweating of so many young girls 
formed everywhere the foundation of the living 
of whole families. I frequently worked for the 
wives of officials or the employees of com- 
mercial businesses who could only keep up an 
appearance suitable to their station by the 
exploitation of our labour. I was always the 
youngest of all, and in order not to be worse 
paid on account of my youth, I gave myself out 
to be older, which I could do very well, as I 
was tall for my age, and my serious looks 
also made me appear older. Moreover I was 
obliged to be reckoned as older lest any one 
should guess that I ought actually to be at 
school. 

I was in my twelfth year when my mother 
34 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

decided to apprentice me. I was to learn a 
trade from which it was supposed a better 
wage could be obtained with diligence and 
dexterity — lacework. Of course, on account 
of my being of school age, I was again obliged 
to go to a middlewoman. For twelve hours a- 
day I was obliged to make ornaments out of 
pearls and silk lace for ladies' ready-made 
clothes. I received no fixed wage, but with 
every new article it was calculated exactly how 
many could be made in an hour, and I was paid 
five farthings for that number. When we had 
attained greater dexterity, and thereby were 
able to earn more, our employer reduced our 
wages on the ground that the manufacturer 
also paid less. We had to work continuously 
without being allowed a moment's rest. But 
this could not be expected from a child of my 
age, nor can it be done by any one, as every 
person knows who can himself judge what 
twelve hours of unremitting toil means. With 
what longing I looked at the clock when my 
pricked fingers pained me and when my whole 
body felt tired out ! And when I went home 
on beautiful, warm summer days, or in the 
bitterly cold winter, I was often obliged, if there 
were much to do, to take home some work for 
the night. I suffered most from that, because 
it deprived me of the only pleasure I had. 
I loved to read. I read without choice 
35 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

whatever came into my hands, whatever 
acquaintances lent me — they did not distin- 
guish between what was suitable and unsuit- 
able for me — and whatever I could borrow at 
a second-hand bookshop in our suburb by 
paying a halfpenny, which I saved from my 
money for food. Stories of Indians, romances 
hawked about the streets, newspaper stories — 
I took them all home. In addition to stories 
of robbers, which particularly fascinated me, I 
was extremely interested in the stories of un- 
happy queens. Besides *' Rinaldo Rinaldini " 
(which was my particular favourite), " Katerina 
Kornaro," "Rosa Sandor," "Isabella of Spain," 
"Eugenie of France," "Mary Stuart," and 
others, the "White Lady in the Imperial 
Palace " in Vienna, all the romances of the 
Emperor Joseph, "The Heroine of Worth," 
and " Emperor's Son and Barber's Daughter," 
gave me historical information. To them 
were added novels of the Jesuits and stories, 
in a hundred parts, of a poor girl who, after 
overcoming many and horrible difficulties, 
became a countess, or at least the wife of a 
manufacturer or merchant. I lived as if in a 
dream. I devoured number after number. I 
was withdrawn from real life, and identified 
myself with the heroines of my books. I 
repeated to myself all the words they spoke, 
and felt with them their terror when they were 

36 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

imprisoned, buried alive, poisoned, slain with a 
dagger, or smothered. I was continually with 
my thoughts in quite another world, and neither 
saw nor felt anything of the misery around me, 
nor felt my own. As my mother could not 
read, no one exercised any supervision over 
my reading. So I read Paul de Kock ; but 
the frivolous French tales left me so harmless 
that I related the contents down to the smallest 
details, and did not understand why my brother 
and his friend laughed where I found nothing 
amusing. I have always remembered one 
passage. A marquis had led a girl into a 
wood, and then it went on: '*When they 
came out again the girl was walking, pale and 
with faltering steps. She cast one last look 
back on the place where she had lost her 
innocence." The two young men laughed, 
without my finding a reason for it. 

I narrated these stories very often. I could 
narrate very exactly, and knew many dialogues 
almost word for word, as if I had learnt them 
by heart. On Sunday evening I was invited 
to my employer's to read aloud to them. " The 
Love Adventures of Isabella of Spain," was the 
book read. In the house where we lived I was 
invited by the inmates to recite, and my mother 
and brother were really cruel to me from their 
desire to hear me recite. When all were in 
bed I was obliged to tell them stories ; the 

37 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

others went to sleep, but I could not sleep, and 
I lay awake in bed in an excited state, in which 
I dared not move for fear of disturbing my 
mother. Besides, I would often rather have 
employed the time in reading if I was not 
obliged to work. 

On Sunday afternoon, after I had helped in 
the morning in our modest household work, I 
read uninterruptedly till it was dark. In the 
summer I used to take my book to the cemetery, 
where I stayed, resting under a weeping willow, 
for hours, without paying attention to anything 
beyond my book. How I hated the Sunday 
work which I often had to do ! Such a dav I 
looked upon as lost, and the better supper and 
the little glass of wine or beer which I received 
as compensation did not seem such to me. 

I was apprenticed for two years, and experi- 
enced in that time much mortification, harsh- 
ness, and heartlessness. I was made use of 
as a kind of Cinderella. I was obliged on 
Saturday to do the cleaning work, and even 
to-day I feel the indignation I felt then when 
I remember how much was exacted from me 
and how I was treated. I was obliored to 
fetch the water in a heavy wooden jar from 
the public spring some distance off. We had 
no water laid on to the house then, and I did 
not dream that such a convenience could exist. 
Strange men often pitied me, and helped me to 

38 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

carry my jar. My mistress went on the prin- 
ciple, "I must accustom you to everything," 
"for you will never be a great lady," said she. 

The two children played me all the mis- 
chievous tricks of which they were capable. 
They joked at my poverty, and made merry 
because I had to go barefoot in summer, 
which mortified me bitterly. But, as it was 
only a few steps to go, my mother considered 
wearing shoes on week days extravagant for 
such a child. As the trade which I was learning 
was dependent on the season, there were some 
weeks twice in the year when little, and for a 
time even no work was to be done. Then I 
read through all the shop announcements, and 
where I could guess girls might be wanted 
I went in. That was the hardest thing of 
all. Always the same stereotyped question : 
*' Please, I would like some work." I can feel 
to-day in all its intensity the humiliating feeling 
which I experienced in my anxious and yet 
expectant plea for work. I was often obliged 
to dry the hot, flowing tears before I was able 
to speak. 

Once, when I was over thirteen and looked 
almost grown up, I came in my search for work 
to the office of a manufacturer of bronze goods. 
A little, old man, who was the chief himself, 
asked my name, age, and family history, and 
engaged me for the following Monday. I 

39 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

received a place among twelve young girls, 
and was once more in a warm, heated room. 
I was shown how to string chain links, and 
soon acquired some dexterity. The chief was 
kind to me. I was here also the youngest 
workwoman, but I soon earned more than I 
had received as an apprentice. The apprentice 
work was now quite given up, as the new work 
seemed more profitable. I worked ten months 
uninterruptedly in the bronze factory. I re- 
ceived, according to my ideas at that time, 
nice clothes, ventured to buy pretty shoes, 
and also many things which please young girls. 

My chief was very kind to me, and made a 
favourite of me. He spoke in a truly fatherly 
manner, and confirmed me in my resolve to 
keep away from all the pleasures which 
attracted my fellow-workers. The girls went 
to dances on Sundays, and gave accounts of 
them. In the intervals they amused them- 
selves with the young workmen ; although I 
did not understand the meaning of their talk, 
I had the feeling that one ought not to talk 
so. I was often laughed at because I was 
so much alone ; but, as I was always ready to 
recite in the intervals between work, they 
were not unkind to me in any other way. 

After some months another kind of work 
was assigned to me which was better paid, but 
it was harder. I had to solder with a pair of 

40 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

bellows driven by gas, which did not appear 
to do me any good. My cheeks grew paler 
and paler, a great unconquerable feeling of 
tiredness overcame me, and I had giddy attacks, 
and often had to sit down. 

Another event much upset me at that time, 
I have already mentioned that we did not live 
alone, but that a comrade of my brother's lived 
with us. He — an ugly man of few words, 
marked by small-pox — began to pay me 
attentions. He would bring me harmless 
presents such as fruit and pastry. He also 
procured books for me. Neither my mother 
nor I thought anything of it — I was only just 
fourteen years old. Once, on a holiday, he 
came home in the evening, and we went to 
bed before my brother came. I lay beside 
my mother, next the wall. I was not quite 
fast asleep when I suddenly woke with a cry 
of terror. I had felt a hot breath above me, 
but in the darkness could not see what it was. 
My scream had wakened my mother, who 
immediately struck a light and perceived what 
it was. The man had raised himself in his 
bed, the foot of which was against the head 
of ours, and had bent over me. I trembled 
with fright and anguish, and without rightly 
knowing what he was thinking of, I felt 
instinctively that it was something wrong. 
My mother reproached him, and he scarcely 

41 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

replied. When my brother came home, whom 
we stayed awake to receive, there was a terrible 
scene, and his comrade was given notice to 
quit. What I had expected and desired did not 
happen. He was not sent away immediately, 
but allowed to remain till the end of the week 
in order to have time to look for another sleep- 
ing place and not to be sent away in disgrace. 
I was afraid to fall asleep, and when I did I 
had the most horrid dreams. I flung my arms 
round my mother to feel safe. I was scolded 
for being over excited ; the novels which I 
had read were considered the cause of it, and 
I was forbidden to read any more. 

Some weeks after this alarming occurrence 
I was seized with a very severe fainting attack. 
When I had recovered consciousness, with 
the doctor's help, terrible ideas tormented me. 
The doctor considered the case very serious, 
and pronounced it to be a nervous illness, and 
at the hospital to which my mother took me 
questions were asked as to the manner of life 
of my father and grandfather, and the doctors 
considered my father's immoderate enjoyment 
of alcohol the cause of my illness. They found 
me under nourished and bloodless to the last 
degree, and advised much exercise in the open 
air and good nourishment. How was I to 
follow their orders ? 



42 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

All that I had hitherto suffered from de- 
privation, work, and mortification was sur- 
passed in the following months. I was not 
allowed to return to the bronze factory, as the 
physicians said it would be poison to me. 
After my health had apparently improved, I 
had again to look for work. But I lived in 
constant fear, I was afraid to go a step alone 
from the house, for I had constantly the feeling 
of losing consciousness. To be able to die was 
my dearest wish. But I must look for work. 
When I found work, and had entered my 
situation, anxiety overwhelmed me. I used 
to spend the dinner interval in the park, as I 
ought to have as much fresh air as possible. 
I took my dinner there — fruit and bread or a 
piece of sausage — the "good nourishment" 
which the physicians had recommended for 
me. It was now more scanty than before, 
because I had earned nothing for some weeks, 
and the doctor, who had been fetched at the 
first alarm, and the chemist had both to be 
paid. No insurance against sickness had 
then been started. 

I had not been allowed to remain in the 
bronze factory because the work was under- 
mining my health ; but now I was working in 
a metal factory, where I had to tend a press, 
and where I, as the latest comer, had to carry 
up the burning material from the underground 

43 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

room, always tormented by the fear of fainting 
in climbing or descending the bad stairs. I 
was only a few days there, and then found 
work in a cartridge factory. When I had 
been there three weeks, and was going along 
the streets at noon, I had to be supported by 
passers-by, as I began to totter, and I again 
became unconscious. When the faint was 
over they took me home, and frightened my 
mother. I begged her to get me into the 
hospital, which might cure me, if anything 
could do so. 

As they were not clear what was the matter 
with me, I was taken to the mental hospital. 
Half a child still, I was not aware of the fearful 
significance of being obliged to live with the 
mentally afflicted. It was, paradoxical as it 
may sound, the best time I had ever had. 
Every one was kind to me — the doctors, the 
nurses, and also the patients. I received good 
food several times a-day — often even roast 
meat and jam, which I had never tasted till 
then. I had a bed to myself, and always 
clean linen. I made myself useful to the 
nurses — helped them in cleaning the rooms 
and in serving the invalids in bed. I sewed 
and knitted for them. Then I read books 
which one of the doctors lent me. At that 
time I became acquainted with the works of 
Schiller and Alphonse Daudet. The dramatic 

44 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

works of Schiller, and especially the "Bride 
of Messina," pleased me most. Daudet's 
" Fromont Junior and Risler Senior" made 
the greatest impression on me. My trouble, 
which had made me so unhappy, did not 
show itself whilst I was in the hospital. I 
grew strong and looked blooming. I con- 
stantly prayed quietly to be freed from my 
anxiety, and I used to fall asleep praying. 
In my room were only quiet patients suffering 
from depression and melancholia. Two young 
girls were there who informed me they had 
been brought to the hospital. In one case 
a cruel father was said to have separated 
his daughter from her lover, in the other a 
guardian had been guilty of diabolical acts 
against his ward. I believed all that was 
told me, and mourned with those who were 
sad. In the garden we came across other 
patients, who were really mad. One woman 
imagined herself to be Elizabeth of Mexico. 
She always stood on one spot and spoke in 
a loud voice, as a queen to her subjects. 
Another thought she had committed murder, 
and was afraid of being prosecuted. In these 
surroundings I remained four weeks, and was 
then discharged as cured. 

The search for work began again. I left 
home early in the morning to be the first at 
the gates, but it was always a vain quest. 

4o 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

My mother had been exceedingly kind to 
me from the time of my illness, and often 
called me her poor, unhappy child. She 
received with emotion the caresses she had 
formerly repelled. She had repelled them 
not from want of love, but because she was 
convinced that flattery is another word for 
deceit. But now she became cross again 
because I was so long earning nothing. She 
had so much to do. She worked every day 
and all day long without any pause or rest. 
She worked in a weaving-mill. She had 
developed wounds in her fingers from the 
poisonous colours of the wool, and painful 
ulcers gathered in her arm ; but she conquered 
every pain, and carried through her laborious, 
badly-paid day's work. And she was no 
longer a young woman. I, her fifteenth child, 
was born when she was forty-seven, so that 
she was now sixty-one, and during her whole 
life she had had no day of rest. If she had 
no work, she hawked soap or fruit in order 
to earn food for us. It was her ambition not 
to owe any rent or to be in debt for anything 
else. It was a special characteristic of hers 
to wish not to be dependent on any one. And 
now she had a great girl, who ought to be a 
support to her, and this girl was earning 
nothing. She reproached me bitterly, and 
scolded me ; because she herself had always 

46 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

managed to earn money, I ought also to be 
able to do so. 

I sought for all kinds of work. I tried for 
it in a cardboard box factory, in a shoe factory, 
at a fringe- maker's, in a workshop where fresh 
colours were worked on Turkish shawls, and 
in many other trades. After some hours they 
either found me not clever enough for the work, 
or I heard of some other work that was better 
paid and went after that. 

Three weeks had passed in this way when 
the giddy attacks began again, and these were 
followed by a severe fainting fit. I went again 
to the hospital. I was so weak and exhausted 
that I roused general pity as we walked 
through the streets. We had often to stop 
at a house so that I might recover myself on 
the steps. I was feverish when I entered the 
hospital, and was sick after my first meal ; but 
in a few days all was well again. I had again 
had good food and comforts such as I had not 
known elsewhere. 

Then something happened, the whole horror 
of which I only learned to know in later years. 
One day I was told that there was no prospect 
of my becoming healthy and capable of con- 
tinuous work, and, therefore, I must go into 
another institution. 

I had to dress, get into the hospital 
ambulance, and in a few minutes I found 

47 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

myself in the receiving room of the work- 
house. I was exactly fourteen years and four 
months old. I was not conscious of the mean- 
ing of the change ; I only wept, wept un- 
ceasingly at my surroundings. In a great 
dormitory where rows of beds were arranged 
side by side, mostly for old and decrepit 
women, a bed and a cupboard were pointed 
out for me. The old women coughed and 
had attacks of choking ; many were delirious, 
and talked in the most extraordinary fashion. 
At night I could not sleep because I was 
again terribly frightened, the old women also 
were restless, and did not always stay in their 
beds. The food was not nearly so good as 
in the hospital. Then I had nothing to do, 
no needlework, no books — no one troubled 
about me. I sought out the most lonely 
paths in the great garden to be able to weep. 
On the fifth day I was sent for to the Board 
Room, where I was questioned as to whether 
I had any one who could look after me, because 
I could not stay there ; and if no one would 
look after me, I must return to my native 
parish. 

I did not know my native parish. I had 
never lived there, and did not understand 
the language spoken in it. I was quite 
desperate, and the desire just to be able to 
die again overwhelmed me. I stammered 

48 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

that I had a mother who worked, and that I 
myself had worked since I was ten years old. 
I received a card on which I had to write 
that my mother must fetch me immediately, 
otherwise I should be sent to Bohemia. The 
next day I went home with my poor mother, 
who was never spared any hardship. 

In later years I have often asked myself 
what would indeed have happened to me had 
I been sent to Bohemia, my native place. I 
began also to consider the criminality of 
bureaucratic routine, which placed me, a child, 
deprived through labour and hunger of all 
childish pleasures, in a home for old and 
infirm women, and which — but for the presence 
of a thoughtful official — would have delivered 
me over to a fearful lot, certainly for many 
years. A wave of bitterness came over me 
as I realised all this, and said to myself that 
it could only be ascribed to a mere accident 
that I, now a healthy working girl, and later a 
healthy woman, had not been thrust amongst 
people who would have treated me, at the 
best, as a troublesome stranger. 

If the official had not seen me in my walks 
in the garden and spoken to me because he 
was struck with my youth, I should probably not 
have been spared heavy suffering. Now I was 
at home again, and had to learn white sewing. 



49 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

A month's tuition was arranged, and my 
mother willingly paid the fee asked for it, 
supported by the hope of procuring me 
better work. I came again to a middlewoman 
who employed a number of girls. The husband 
did not work ; he spent most of his time in 
the coffee-house, and let his wife earn their 
living. The wife sweated the girls incredibly. 
I was to learn white sewing in four weeks ; 
but what did I do instead ? My mother had 
made for her circumstances enormous sacrifices 
to have me equipped for a better trade. She 
had arranged to dress me properly, had paid 
the teaching fee in advance, and fed me for 
four weeks. And I ? I was turned into a 
children's nurse. I had no longer any feeling 
in my arm because I had to carry the middle- 
woman's small child so much. I had to go 
for walks for hours, so that the others should 
not be troubled by the children's screaming. 
I had to go shopping, wash crockery, and do 
all sorts of things that had nothing to do with 
the trade I ought to be learning. Only at 
the beginning of the fourth week did I begin 
to sew buttonholes, turn down hems, draw 
threads, and at last I was allowed to sit at 
the machine in order to attempt my first 
sewing on paper. I broke down in working 
the machine with my feet, and that was the 
art with which I should now earn my living 

50 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

and repay my mother for all she had done 
for me. 

But my good teacher had no intention of 
allowing me to work with her in order, at 
least, to be taught what she had not taught 
me at first. Quite on the contrary ; she was 
wanting another girl, to be able to make use 
of her for her child, and to be paid for doing 
60. She sent me away with the excuse that 
she had no work and could not employ me. 
My mother would not be satisfied with that ; 
she demanded a return of her money or a 
repetition of the period of teaching. But 
every hour she wasted on these interviews 
meant loss of work and with it loss of money. 
So I had again to look about — this time for 
employment in white sewing. I could cer- 
tainly have found work, but people saw by 
the first piece I took into my hands that I 
could do nothing, and there was an end of it. 
I was obliged again to take any work I could 
get. 

But in order to obtain continuous work my 
mother spoke to my first mistress, who took 
me on again. But it was a particularly un- 
fortunate year, as the fashions were develop- 
ing in another direction. The dead season, 
which in other years begins only just before 
Christmas, began this year as early as 
November. At first we worked a few hours 

51 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

a-day, less but all work came to a standstill 
four weeks before Christmas. I was again 
at home, and I was a great girl of fifteen. 
Day after day I began again my wanderings 
We were particularly hard hit this time, as 
we had another member of our family without 
work. Whilst my younger brother had 
been called away to fulfil his time of military 
service, the elder brother had come back 
from the barracks. He was almost without 
the most necessary clothes, and without a 
penny of money, but he had a large appetite. 
And it was so difficult to find work, though 
he was ready to take up any kind. He would 
get something temporary, but he could find 
nothing permanent. And he was to be a 
help to us ! We had so rejoiced at his coming 
home. There he was — a strong, healthy man 
after he had served his emperor and father- 
land for three years — and he had to be kept 
by his old mother and a sister who was still 
half a child, and he had only scraps of food 
to eat. I certainly did not think of this at 
the time ; I was only proud that my brothers 
were able to serve their emperor and to help 
defend their fatherland in case of war. 

In this dark time all the advice given my 
mother was taken. I had to write petitions 
to the emperor, to archdukes, and to other 
rich ••benefactors." I had to compose the 

52 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

petitions because, as I have already mentioned, 
my mother could neither read nor write, and 
I did it in my own fashion. I related the 
case quite simply. I began after the usual 
form of address, as once before to the Duchess: 
"As my mother cannot write, and we are so 
badly off." We received five florins from 
the emperor and the same amount from an 
archduke and a rich benefactor whose secre- 
tary came to enquire about us. Most of it went 
in buying the most necessary articles of clothing 
for my brother. But what to live on? My 
mother now earned four florins a-week, which 
had to keep three persons. 

At any cost I must find work. The events 
which followed I shall never forget, and no 
year has passed since in which I have not 
remembered that particular Christmas. 

It was a cold, severe winter, and the wind 
and snow could come into our room un- 
hindered. When we opened the door in the 
morning, we had first to cut away the ice 
which had frozen to it in order to get out, 
for the entrance to the room was direct from 
the court, and we had only a single glass door. 
My mother left the house at half-past five, 
because she had to begin work at six. I went 
an hour later to look for work. " Please, I 
want work," must again be said innumerable 

G3 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

times. I was in the streets nearly the whole 
day. We could not heat our room — that would 
have been extravagant — so I walked up and 
down the streets, into the churches, and to 
the cemetery. I took with me a piece of 
bread and a halfpenny with which to buy my 
dinner. It was always a great effort to keep 
back from weeping when my prayer for work 
was refused, and I had to go out again from 
the warm room. How willingly would I have 
done any work to stop my freezing so. My 
clothes became damp in the snow, and my 
limbs grew stiff after walking for hours. My 
mother became more and more angry about it. 
My brother had found work ; snow had fallen, 
so he was busy, but for such a little pay that 
he could scarcely keep himself. I only had 
no work. 

I even got no work in the sweetmeat factories, 
of which I had heard that they could make 
use of many hands at Christmas time. To- 
day I know that nearly all the Christmas work 
is done some weeks before the festive days, 
that for weeks before women must work day 
and night, and that they are dismissed before 
Christmas without any consideration. I had 
then no idea of how the process of production 
is arranged. With what piety and faith I 
prayed in church for work. I sought out the 
specially celebrated saints. I went from altar 

54 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

to altar, knelt down on the cold stone steps 
and prayed to the Virgin Mary, the Mother 
of God, the Queen of Heaven, and to other 
saints who were considered specially powerful 
and benevolent. 

I did not give up hope, and I resolved one 
day to throw the couple of farthings I had for 
my dinner into the box for offerings to the 
Holy Father. On the same day I found a 
purse with twelve florins. I could scarcely 
contain myself for joy, and I thanked all the 
saints for this favour. It never occurred to 
me that some other poor creature might have 
been thrown into trouble by the loss of the 
vpurse. Twelve florins was to me such a large 
amount that I never even thought a poor man 
could have lost them. I knew nothing of the 
duty of taking things found to the police. I 
only saw the gracious, kindly hand of my 
saints in the purse lying on the path ! On this 
evening I fell on my mother's neck rejoicing. 
I could not speak for joy, and could only bring 
out these words : " Twelve florins, I have 
brought you twelve florins." 

Now proud joy had entered our room, and as 
if to make our good fortune complete, I was 
sent for the next day to enter a glass paper 
factory, in which I had a few days previously 
asked for work, and where they had made a 
note of my address. 

65 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

My new work place was in the third storey 
of a house which was only used for business 
purposes. Up till now I had not been ac- 
quainted with the life and drive of a factory ; 
and I had never felt so uncomfortable. Every- 
thing displeased me. The dirty, sticky work, 
the unpleasant glass dust, the many employees, 
the common tone, and the whole manner in 
which the girls and married women talked 
and behaved. 

The manufacturer's wife, the "gracious 
lady," as she was called, was the actual 
manager of the factory, and she talked quite 
as much as the girls. She was a beautiful 
woman, but she drank brandy, took snuff, and 
made unseemly, rude jokes with the workmen. 
When the manufacturer, who was often ill, 
came himself, there was always a violent 
scene. 

I pitied him. He seemed to me to be so 
good and noble that I concluded from his 
wife's behaviour that he must be unhappy. 
By his orders I was given another, much 
pleasanter, kind of work. Hitherto I had 
been obliged to hang the paper, smeared with 
glue and sprinkled over with glass, on the 
ropes which were stretched fairly high across 
the room. This work tired me very much, and 
the manufacturer must probably have noticed 
that it was not suitable for me, for he ordered 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

that from now I should count over the paper 
that was to be worked upon. This work was 
clean, and pleased me much better. Certainly 
when there was nothing to count I had again 
to return to the other work. The factory was 
a good distance from our house, and I was 
not able to go home to dinner. Then I 
remained with the other employees in the 
work-room. We fetched soup or vegetables 
from the restaurant ; for our dinner we had 
coffee as well. I always sat on one side and 
read in a book. I was reading " The Brigand 
and his Child," which was in a hundred parts. 
The others laughed at me, and joked at my 
innocence because their talk confused me. 

They often talked of Mr Berger, the 
traveller for the firm, who was expected back 
now. All the women idolised him, so that I 
was very curious to see the man. I had been 
there a fortnight when he arrived. All was 
commotion, and the only talk was of the looks 
of the traveller. He came with the gracious 
lady into the room where I was working. In 
the afternoon I was called to the office. Mr 
Berger sent me for something, and made a 
stupid remark at the same time about my 
" beautiful hands." When I came back it was 
dark, and I had to pass an empty anteroom, 
which was not lighted, and was, therefore, 
half dark, as it only received light through the 

57 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

glass door leading into the work-room. Mr 
Berger was in the room as I came through. 
He took me by the hand and enquired sym- 
pathetically into my circumstances. I answered 
him truthfully, and told him of our poverty. He 
spoke very kindly, praised me, and promised 
to use his influence for me to get my wages 
raised. Naturally I was much pleased at the 
prospect held out to me, as I had only two and 
a half florins a-week, for which I worked twelve 
hours daily. I stammered a few words of 
gratitude, and assured him I would show my- 
self worthy of his recommendation. Before 
I rightly knew what had happened, Mr Berger 
had kissed me. He sought to soothe my 
horror with the words : "It is only a fatherly 
kiss." He was twenty - six and I nearly 
fifteen, so that there could not be much 
question of fatherliness. 

I hastened to my work quite beside myself. 
I did not know what to think of what had 
happened; I considered the kiss as something 
disgraceful, but Mr Berger had spoken so 
compassionately, and given me a prospect of 
higher wages. At home I spoke, indeed, of 
the promise, but I was silent about the kiss, 
as I was ashamed to talk of it before my 
brother. But both mother and brother re- 
joiced because I had found such an influential 
protector. 

58 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

On the next day a fellow-worker — a young 
fair-haired girl, whom I had liked best of all 
of them — overwhelmed me with reproaches. 
She complained that I had taken her place 
with the traveller, that hitherto if anything 
had to be done or fetched for him she had 
done it. She assured me with sighs and tears 
that he had loved her, and that now all was 
at an end owing to me. The other girls 
joined in ; they called me a hypocrite, and the 
gracious lady herself asked me how I liked 
the kisses of the "handsome traveller." They 
had seen what had taken place the previous 
evening through the glass door, and showed 
it in this (to me) humiliating manner. 

I was defenceless against these gibes and 
scoffing speeches, and I longed for the hour 
when I could go home. It was Saturday, and 
when I received my wages I went home with 
the intention of not returning on Monday. 

When I spoke of it at home I was severely 
scolded ; it was curious. My mother, who had 
always been so much concerned to bring me 
up a well - conducted girl, who had always 
given me warnings and instructions not to 
talk to men — "only by one's future husband 
should one be kissed," had she impressed 
upon me, — she was in this instance against 
me. I was called over excited. A kiss was 
nothing bad, and if I received higher wages 

60 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

from it, it would be stupid to give up my 
work. Finally my books were again made 
answerable for my " over -excitement," and 
my mother was so angry at "my obstinacy" 
that the splendid books lent me — "The Book 
for All," " Over Land and Sea," " Chronicles 
of the Times," — for "so far" had I advanced 
in literature — were thrown out of doors. I 
collected them all again, indeed ; but I dared 
no longer read in the evenings, although 
on Saturday I had been allowed to read 
longer. 

That was a sad Sunday. I was utterly 
cast down, and in addition I was scolded the 
whole day. 

On Monday my mother woke me as usual, 
and impressed on me, as" she went to work, 
not to be stupid, but to think that in a few 
days it would be Christmas. 

I went out — I wanted to conquer myself and 
go into the factory ; I came to the door, then 
I turned back. I had such a nameless dread 
of unknown dangers that I would rather 
starve than suffer disgrace. For all that had 
happened — the kiss and my comrades' 
reproaches — seemed to me disgrace. I had 
been told, moreover, that one of the girls was 
always in the traveller's special favour ; and 
indeed he was changeable, for if a new girl 
came who pleased him better than the last, 

60 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

then she stepped into her place. According 
to all signs I had been chosen to step into 
the place. I had read in books so much 
about seduction and fallen virtue that I had 
created the most horrible fancies for myself. 
So I did not go in. 

But what was I to do ? At first I sought 
work — I would have taken anything that 
offered ; but three days before Chrismas no 
fresh hands are wanted. I wandered about 
the streets, and when evening came I went 
home at the usual hour. I had not the 
courage to confess that I had not been to 
the factory. I did the same the two follow- 
ing days. All endeavours to find work were 
fruitless. Utter desperation took possession 
of me ; then I hoped again that perhaps 
some accident might happen to help me. It 
was only a question of two florins, as it was 
not a whole working week. 

I had read so much of the power of God, of 
help in the hour of need, of virtue rewarded, 
and similar things, that I persuaded myself that 
help would be given to me. Therefore I knelt 
before the altar in prayer, and then went to 
look for work. I might, indeed, find another 
purse and take home more money than was 
expected. I went where the women stood 
crowded together by the fish stalls to buy for 
their evening meal. Although I had always 

61 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

thought of fish as something very delicious, 
now in my desperation I had no longing for 
it. I only wanted money. Mad thoughts, 
from the carrying out of which, however, I 
drew back with horror, passed through my 
head. Afternoon came. People were hurry- 
ing home with their parcels to prepare a 
happy time for their dear ones. Signs of 
festivity were everywhere. But where should 
I get money.'' 

A thought occurred to me. I had an aunt 
who was in service with a countess ; this aunt 
was to us the personification of high rank, 
her situation with the Countess procured this 
halo for her. The "town aunt," — that always 
sounded to us very splendid, — and when she 
occasionally visited us, we always paid her 
the highest deference. She was considered 
very pious, and the church, belonging to a 
certain Order, which she always attended, 
received many gifts from her. I now hoped 
for help from her. I did not find her at home ; 
she was at church. I sought her there ; she 
had already left. I knelt again at the altar, 
and prayed with tears and sobs that God and 
the saints would make the heart of my aunt 
incline towards me. When I now consider — 
I wanted scarcely two florins, and all my grief 
and heart trouble would have been over ! I 
did not know at that time how much money 

62 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

is uselessly squandered, how many men live 
in luxury whilst others pine and want. At 
that time I did not know of this difference 
or I had not considered its injustice. 

I have never forgotten these hours and all 
the suffering of my childhood and youth. 
And still, in spite of the many years which 
have passed since then, I can never pass 
weeping children without asking the cause 
of their tears. I always think in such cases 
of my own tears, and of how I needed pity. 
As a badly-paid working-woman I have often 
given the earnings of many hours' work to 
strange, weeping children who have told me 
of their need in the streets. 

I found no pity. My pious aunt, whom I 
found at last, treated me hospitably to coffee 
and cakes, but when I finally ventured to 
present my petition, she remained hard and 
pitiless. She told me to go home directly, 
as it was Christmas Eve, and I should be 
expected. I begged and cried ; it did not 
move her. In pious sentences she refused to 
help. Her last words were : " Every one must 
bear the consequence of his own deeds." So 
I again stood in the streets. Very few people 
were now to be seen, but the windows shone 
brilliantly, and I could see many decorated 
Christmas-trees. 

I did not want to go home at all. What 
63 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

should I say? I was afraid and ashamed. 
My behaviour the last few days seemed to be 
now very wrong. I imagined the horror of my 
mother — my poor, worried mother, who had 
to count every farthing, and who put so much 
hope in me. Could I cause her so much pain 
and disillusion ? My remorse and anguish 
increased every moment. I said to myself: 
" Oh, that I had overcome my fears and 
stayed on in the factory ! " My fear of the 
traveller, my shame at the girls' talk, and my 
anxiety about propriety — all seemed to be gross 
exaggeration. I felt now how delightful it 
would be if I were going home with the wages 
for my work. I turned into the road to the 
Danube, and I had a presentiment that it 
would be easier to jump into the water than 
to go home with my guilt. 

As I was hastening through the better 
streets to my new goal — the water — whilst my 
tears flowed uninterruptedly and my sobs 
shook my whole body, I was addressed by a 
fine gentleman. He asked me whither I was 
going so late, and why I was crying. It must 
be my salvation, I thought ; it must be a 
dispensation of Providence. Every hope 
revived in me, and I narrated my trouble. I 
must have two florins, otherwise I dared not 
go home. How kindly and nobly the gentle- 
man spoke. He would give me ten florins, 

64 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

only I must go with him, as he had no money 
with him. I do not know what possessed me, 
but in spite of my need, I did not go to his house. 
When we came to the house, into which he 
wished to lead me, I begged to be allowed to 
remain outside till he came with the money. 
When he tried to persuade me and to draw 
me into the house, I broke loose and ran away. 
Such an inexpressible fear overcame me, the 
looks which the gentleman gave me had 
frightened me so much, that without consider- 
ing what I was doing, I rushed away in the 
direction of my home. 

There I met my brother, who had been look- 
ing for me a long time, and who was on the 
point of going to the factory to enquire for me. 

Shall I now relate how the rest of this 
Christmas Eve passed ? How neither mother 
nor brother could understand my feeling or 
emotions nor pardon me ? They called me 
naughty and lazy. Lazy ! At an age when 
other children play with dolls or go to school, 
when they are guarded and cherished so that 
they may not stumble over any obstacle — at 
this age I had to go out to bear the hard 
yoke of work. At an age when others are 
enjoying all the blessedness of childhood, I 
had already forgotten childish laughter, and 
was thoroughly imbued with the feeling that 
work was my destined lot. 

65 s 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

The burden of this childhood influenced my 
disposition for a long time, and made me a 
creature disliking mirth from my earliest years. 
Much had to happen, something great had to 
step into my life to help me to conquer. 

I found work again ; I took everything that 
was offered me in order to show my willingness 
to work, and I passed through much. But at 
last things became better. I was recommended 
to a great factory which stood in the best 
repute. Three hundred girls and about fifty 
men were employed. I was put in a big room 
where sixty women and girls were at work. 
Against the windows stood twelve tables, and 
at each sat four girls. We had to sort the 
goods which had been manufactured, others 
had to count them, and a third set had to brand 
on them the mark of the firm. We worked 
from 7 A.M. to 7 p.m. We had an hour's rest at 
noon, half-an-hour in the afternoon. Although 
there was a holiday in the week in which 
I began to work, I received the full wages 
paid to beginners. That was four florins. I 
had never yet been paid so much. Besides 
that, the prospect was held out to me after a 
few month's steady application of receiving an 
increase of a shilling. I received it in six 
weeks' time, and in six months I was earning 
ten shillings ; later I received twelve shillings. 

06 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

I seemed to myself to be almost rich. I 
reckoned how much I could save in the course 
of a year, and built castles in the air. As I 
had been accustomed to extraordinary priva- 
tions, I should have considered it extravagant 
to spend more now on my food. If I only 
did not feel hungry, I never even considered 
of what my food consisted. I only wanted 
to be well dressed, so that if I went to church 
on Sunday no one should guess I was a 
factory worker. For I was ashamed of my 
work. Working in a factory had always 
seemed to me to be degrading. When I was 
an apprentice I had always heard it said that 
factory girls were bad, disorderly, and depraved. 
They were always talked about in the most 
scornful manner, and I had also adopted this 
false notion. Now I myself was going to a 
factory where there were so many girls. 

The girls were kind ; they instructed me 
in my work in the friendliest manner, and 
introduced me to the customs of the factory. 
The girls of the sorting room were considered 
the ilite of the employees. The manufacturer 
himself selected them, whilst the engaging of 
those for the machine-room was left to the 
overseers. In the other rooms there were 
boys and girls together ; but in my room 
there were only girls. Men only came in 
to assist us when the heavy parcels of sorted, 

67 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

counted, and marked goods had to be taken 
to the courtyard. We could take our dinner 
at noon in the factory. In fine weather we 
sat or reclined on the parcels of goods in 
the glass-covered courtyard, in the winter 
time we were allowed to go into the machine- 
room. We were not allowed to remain in 
the sorting-room, where it would have been 
much more comfortable to stay, because the 
goods would have absorbed the smell of 
our "food." 

The girls living near the factory went home 
to dinner ; and they had the best of it, because 
they could get a better and a warm dinner. 
For some weeks I dined with acquaintances. 
This was real torture. I had to walk quickly 
for twenty-five minutes, then swallow a hot 
dinner as fast as possible, and hurry back 
to work, arriving breathless and heated. I 
could not stand this for long, and I again 
stayed at the factory. 

From the women of this factory one can 
judge how sad and full of deprivation is the lot 
of a factory worker. Here were the best 
recognised conditions of work. In none of 
the neighbouring factories were the wages so 
high ; we were envied everywhere. Parents 
considered themselves fortunate if they could 
get their daughters of fourteen in there on 
leaving school. Every one strove to give 

68 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

perfect satisfaction to avoid being dismissed. 
Yes ; the married factory girls struggled to 
introduce their husbands (who had learned 
a trade for years) into the factory as assistants, 
because their position was then safe. And 
even here, in this paradise, all were badly 
nourished. Those who stayed at the factory 
for the dinner hour would buy themselves 
for a few farthings a sausage or the leavings 
of a cheese shop. Many a time they ate 
bread - and - butter and cheap fruit. Some 
drank a glass of beer, and sopped bread in 
it. If we felt a loathing for the food, we 
fetched a meal from the restaurant. For ijd., 
either soup or vegetables. It was seldom well 
prepared and the smell of the fat was horrible. 
We often felt such a disgust for it that we 
threw it away, and preferred to eat dry bread, 
and comfort ourselves by thinking of the coffee 
which we had brought for the afternoon. 

The employer often passed through the 
courtyard when we were taking our dinner. 
Many a time he stopped to ask what good 
things we had. If he were in a particularly 
good humour, or if the girl whom he addressed 
were pretty, and understood how to complain, 
he would give her money that she might 
buy something better. That always made 
me angry ; it seemed to me humiliating, and 
provoked me. 

00 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

We also tried going to an inferior kind 
of cookshop. There we received for two- 
pence soup and vegetables. For a further 
twopence two girls would buy a piece of 
cooked meat between them. I went to a 
cookshop for some time when I was ill and 
the doctor said that good food was most 
necessary for me. But after my health had 
improved and I was stronger, I did not like 
the great expense. I wanted to save money, 
to have some ready when in need of it. 

Moreover, only those girls could be better 
nourished who were helped by their families. 
But there were very few of these. Much 
oftener the girls had to support their parents 
or pay for the board of their children. How 
self-sacrificing these mothers were! They 
saved up one farthing after another to improve 
their children's lot, or to make presents to 
the foster mothers so that they might take 
good care of the children. Many women 
often had to earn for their husbands, who 
were out of work, and to undergo a double 
deprivation because they had to struggle alone 
to earn the money for their household expenses. 

I also learnt to know the much-slandered 
levity of factory girls. Certainly some girle 
went to dances, some had love affairs ; others 
took their places at three o'clock in the after- 
noon at a theatre, in order to be present at 

70 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

an evening performance, for y^d. They took 
excursions in the summer, and walked an hour 
in order to save a halfpenny fare. They had, 
in consequence, to pay for the breath of country 
air by having tired feet for the whole day. 
All that may be called frivolity, even a thirst 
for pleasure or dissipation ; but who has the 
courage to call it so? 

I saw amongst my colleagues, the despised 
factory workers, instances of extraordinary self- 
sacrifice. If any special poverty was found in 
a family, they put their farthings together to 
help. When they had worked twelve hours in 
a factory, and when many had walked for an 
hour to get home, they would mend their 
clothes, though they had not been taught how 
to do so. They unpicked their dresses to 
make new ones from the old pieces, at which 
they sewed at night and on Sundays, 

Even the intervals for meals were not 
devoted to rest. The eating of the scanty 
meal was quickly accomplished, and then stock- 
ings were knitted, crocheted, or embroidered. 
And in spite of all the dilligence and economy, 
every one was poor, and trembled at the 
thought of losing her work. All humbled 
themselves, and suffered the worst injustice 
from the foremen, not to risk losing this good 
work, not to be without food. 

The misfortune happened to many a girl of 
71 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

being the special favourite of one of the fore- 
men. Suddenly his behaviour would alter. 
She could no longer do anything right, she 
made no further progress ; instead of an 
increase in wages she received only repri- 
mands. She was threatened with a notice to 
leave, and the poor girl was harassed until she 
could bear it no longer and left of her own 
accord. 

Reports were circulated about some to whom 
this had happened. One whispered to another 
that they had been seen in certain streets gaudily 
dressed, or they had been seen leaning out of 
windows enticing men. They were always 
blamed, and I was also filled with indignation. 
No one thought if it would have been different 
if the girl had given up resistance quite at the 
beginning and yielded to the foreman. 

I knew then nothing of secret or public 
prostitution. I had never yet heard the word. 
Later, when I could better judge of cause and 
effect, I learnt to think differently of these girls, 
especially when, in the course of the years 
during which I worked in the factory, I learnt 
to know many working women of whom it was 
told to what relations with the foremen they 
owed their favoured position. Or when others 
made scenes with a foreman, because he began 
suddenly to oppress them, as he was tired of 
them, and wanted them out of his way in order 

72 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

to be able, unhindered, to favour another 
woman. 

At that time I did not think about all this. 
I was always striving to do my work properly, 
and not to come into collision with any one. 
Besides, such things did not happen in my 
work-room. No friendly, no kind word came 
from our foreman. He was a tyrant of the 
worst sort, and he must have considered the 
workers a troop of slaves. No one ventured 
to complain of him. He was considered the 
most excellent official in the business, to which 
he, doubtless, was devoted. He had probably 
quite forgotten that he had once been a work- 
man in the same factory. 

I did not wish to leave my mother, and I 
wanted to manage so that she need not work 
any longer. I economised just as much as my 
comrades, and if I spent a half- penny more 
one day, I literally went hungry the next. 
I recognised already that I could lay up 
no fortune for myself; but I wanted to care 
for my mother, and to have a small sum for 
necessities, in order to keep her out of the 
hospital in case of illness, as she had a great 
dislike to it. Like the other girls, I considered 
myself lucky to be in this factory, and I 
anxiously avoided everything which might 
cause me to be blamed. 

" A good master " — that was the general 
73 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

opinion of my employer. We can see from 
this manufacturer how profitable is the sweating 
of human labour. He who really did more for 
his workers than most employers, he who con- 
tinued to pay his workers their wages for weeks 
if they were ill ; he who in case of death made 
a present of considerable sums of money to the 
survivors ; and who scarcely ever refused a 
request, if any one turned to him in trouble — 
he had, nevertheless, become rich by the pro- 
ductive labour of the men and women work- 
ing in his factory. 

I will now relate how in spite of all this I 
became a Social Democrat in this factory. For 
the time being I no longer considered myself 
poor. I enjoyed our splendid Sunday dinner, 
thinking it fit for a royal feast. We bought 
meat for fivepence, and I cooked it. Later, 
when my wages were higher, it became "still" 
better, and I also had a glass of sweet wine to 
drink. 

Only one thing was wanting to make me 
perfectly contented — all my comrades had been 
confirmed. They would talk of how splendidly 
it had gone off, and what presents they had 
received from their godmothers. But I had 
not been confirmed, as my mother was too 
proud to beg any one to be my godmother, 
and she herself could not afford the whit« 
drees and the other things which went with it, 

74 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

however much she would have wished to do 
so ; and I had always been obliged to abandon 
all thought of it. When it was announced in 
the papers that on the day of confirmation a 
godfather or godmother was to be found for a 
poor child, my mother advised me to try my 
luck and stand by the church, or else I must 
wait until I had earned enough to be able to 
buy everything for myself. 

When I was sixteen, and a man first spoke 
to me of marriage, I answered in all seri- 
ousness : " Why I am not yet confirmed." 
According to my view, a true Catholic must 
first receive this sacrament before she could 
think of marriage. I was now seventeen, and 
did not want to wait any longer. A fellow- 
worker who was engaged to a young man 
in better circumstances wished to be my 
godmother. 

At a shop where I could pay by instalments 
I bought a pretty, light dress, elegant shoes, 
a silk sunshade, pretty gloves, and, crowning 
all, a hat trimmed with flowers. Those were 
splendid things! In addition came the drive 
in an open carriage, the ceremony in the 
church with the bishop's laying on of hands, 
then an excursion, a prayer-book, and some 
useful presents. Now, for the first time, I 
seemed to myself quite grown up. 

My mother no longer went out to work 
76 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

She earned something at home, and looked 
after the household matters. We had taken a 
room with two windows, and my youngest 
brother lived with us again, but without his 
friend. When I read on Sundays, I could sit 
by a window that, certainly, only looked into a 
narrow courtyard ; but yet I was very happy. 
I now read better books, also the classics. 
Lenau's poems made a great impression on 
me. I learnt Anna by heart, then Clara 
Hebert and the Albigenses. I was much 
fascinated by Wieland's Oberon, and I 
learnt Chamisso's Lions Bride by heart. 
Goethe did not inspire me. I thought him 
" immoral " and some epigrams I rejected as 
"licentious." It was only some years later 
that the Elective Affinities made me decide 
to read more of Goethe. This, the Iphigenia, 
and The Natural Daughter, I read most 
often. 

I was also stronger physically and more 
capable of endurance. I was pale, but which 
of my comrades was not? In spite of my 
good health, I could not lose the recollection 
of my former state of ill-health. Those dark 
shadows of the past pursued me, and many a 
a time I suffered from them quite horribly. 
The most unlikely things made me think I 
was going to be ill again. The twitching of 
an eyelid, a flickering before my eyes, appeared 

76 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

to me as a threatening of the dreaded illness. 
I did not recover from the fright the whole 
day. I woke at night full of terror, and com- 
plained to my mother ; she suffered with me. 
The neighbours had all kinds of advice to give 
— "sympathetic remedies," as all the super- 
stitious things which are often used are called. 
I was often depressed for a whole week, which 
my fellow-workers put down to love troubles. 
I never told them the cause of my sadness ; 
I did not want to talk of it, as I fancied if I 
only mentioned my illness, it would be enough 
to bring it on. 

As I had heard much talk around me of 
how all imaginable troubles could be cured 
by a pilgrimage, I wanted to try this remedy 
also. I meant to pray most devoutly at the 
holy shrine for perfect freedom from my 
dreaded illness, which I felt was always 
threatening me, and for a sign to tell me my 
prayer was granted. We went on foot to 
the shrine nine miles off. I was imbued 
with the most pious sentiments. 

There was only one thing which I found it 
difficult to resolve to do. It was considered 
important to confess and communicate before 
approaching the miracle-working image. But 
I had always an unconquerable dislike to that. 
Still, I made the journey without eating any- 
thing, as one may only receive the Host fasting. 

77 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

When I knelt at the confessional box, I 
did not know what to say ; the priest waited for 
my confession of sins, but nothing sinful that 
I had done occurred to me. At last the priest 
asked me questions, among them some that 
confused and hurt me. I answered every- 
thing with ** no," and was dismissed with a 
light penance. I went through the prayers 
of expiation, but I did not receive the com- 
munion. In spite of all my piety, I could not 
force myself to believe in the rpiracle of the 
Host, although I still believed in God and 
His Divine Omnipotence and also in the 
saints and their intercession. But I had 
always experienced an instinctive feeling of 
aversion to, and unbelief in, formalities. I 
prayed all the more reverently before the 
image of the crucified Jesus, which lay in a 
niche, as in a grave. There was a terrible 
crowd praying. All crept on their knees to 
kiss the spots pierced by nails of the wooden 
Saviour. I did so too, and pressed my lips 
to the same spots which had been touched 
that day by hundreds and hundreds of the 
sick and the healthy. In the cloisters I gazed 
at all the wonderful things that had been 
given to the holy shrine as thank-offerings. 
Hands of wax, silver, and gold had been 
offered in great numbers as thanks for the 
healing of a hand that had been deemed 

78 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

incurable. Crutches, as a remembrance of 
the cure of a lame leg. Numerous pictures 
represented the scene of miracles. In one a 
child fell from a high storey, and through the 
miraculous intervention of the Holy Virgin, 
he fell whole and uninjured. In another 
picture a child was being saved from the 
flames by Mary, Queen of Heaven — of course 
not through the intrepidity of the fire brigade 
man. I could also see pictures where horses 
that had shied were running over a child, 
which, again through the aid of the saints, 
was uninjured. Thank-offerings for salvation 
from deadly dangers of every kind, thank- 
offerings for salvation from lingering illness, 
and thank-offerings for salvation from bank- 
ruptcy, and also for the accomplishment of 
a happy marriage. The fortunate persons 
had offered rich gifts for all these wonderful 
deeds ; one could read about all the miracles 
in the dedications. 

I cannot say that I was free from doubts. 
I had myself only too often prayed in vain 
for help. But I bought also my sacrificial 
candle, without knowing that if one really wants 
it to be offered in sacrifice one must stand 
by it till it is burnt. It was only later that 
I attained to the knowledge that one candle 
is sold over and over again, and that not only 
the makers of candles make a good business 

7» 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

out of these offerings, but the church also 
gains simple and compound interest on them. 
The " chief attraction " of the holy shrine 
is a miraculous image of the ** Mother of 
God." One reaches the image by a flight 
of steps, which one may only touch creeping 
on one's knees. One has to say a paternoster 
on every step — only thus can one obtain the 
fulfilment of one's desire from the Merciful 
One. I saw women creeping from step to 
step, and I did the same. How this image 
of Mary was adorned ! Silver, gold, and 
pearls — I was overwhelmed, as I had never 
seen such abundance and splendour. They all 
sparkled and glittered on her. But we were 
not allowed to approach this image ; she and 
her precious ornaments were protected by 
a railing from any touch. We could only 
gaze and wish at a reverential distance from 
the wondrous image. I ought in pious 
worshipping prayer to breathe my wish to 
this splendid image. No thought must be 
directed to the outside world. The soul of 
the person requesting help must be turned 
utterly towards God and Mary. What 
wonder that I came home from the shrine 
with fearful doubts. Had my glances dwelt 
too much on the glittering ornaments of the 
image, so that, as I felt, I had not brought 
the fit amount of reverential feeling.-* 

80 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

The pilgrimage was without result — my 
anguish was not lessened. I wanted to try 
once more, and we went to another shrine, 
which was said to have a greater miraculous 
power. It was farther off, so that one had 
an opportunity on the way to expiate for more 
sins. We started at four in the morning of 
a hot Sunday in July. We had to walk 
for five hours. We did not allow ourselves 
a drop of water on the way. I wanted to 
renounce, to do penance, in order to be worthy 
of participating in the blessing. We arrived 
tired, hungry and thirsty, and covered with 
dust. Thousands of persons assembled during 
the morning. Not only the church, but the 
inns, were overflowing with people. The 
throng at the service in the church where 
the pilgrims held their procession of flags 
was so great that there could be no chance 
of true devotion. It was a continuous coming, 
going, pushing, and pressing. Then again 
cries of help, and still greater crowding, as 
those who had fainted owing to the bad air 
had to be taken out. Cripples who were 
dragging themselves along on crutches ; other 
unfortunates who wore shades in front of their 
half-blind eyes ; sick children on their mother's 
arms ; expectant mothers who wanted to pray 
for a happy delivery ; other women who hoped 
to obtain the promise of children — they were 

81 r 



AXJTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

all in this wild pushing, scuffling, and scolding, 
and later in the overfull restaurants, where 
there was unrestrained drinking and noise. 
I was repulsed and sickened, and made no 
more pilgrimages. I was not shattered in 
my belief, but I had a secret presentiment 
that I could have prayed better at home 
than in surroundings which reminded me 
more of the crowd at a parish fair than of 
a house of God. 

I did not only like to read novels and tales ; 
I had begun, as I have already mentioned, 
to read the classics and other good books. 
I also began to take an interest in public 
events. I was barely fifteen when a state 
of martial law was proclaimed at Vienna. 
One of the proclamations, which began, " My 
dear Count Taffe," was nailed up in the street 
in which I worked. As far as I remember, it 
forbade the assembling of several persons. I 
read this proclamation with the greatest 
interest, and came to my companions much 
excited. I cannot now say what kind of mood 
overcame me ; but I know very well that 
I mounted on our work-table and made a 
speech to my "brothers and sisters," in which 
I made known the proclamation of martial 
law. I did not really understand anything of 
the matter ; I had no one to talk with about 

82 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

it, and I was, moreover, not democratically 
inclined. I was full of enthusiasm then for 
emperors, and kings and highly placed person- 
ages played no small part in my fancies. But 
everything political interested me vividly. On 
Sundays I very often paid a visit to an old 
man, an acquaintance of my mother, because 
he would tell me of wars and historical 
occurrences. The Mexican imperial drama 
of the Austrian Archduke Maximilian was 
discussed again and again. 

Even whilst I was an apprentice, I often 
went without food to be able to buy a news- 
paper. It was not the news that interested 
me, but the political leading articles. Now 
that I had a fixed wage, I bought myself a 
paper that came out three times a week. It 
was a strict Catholic paper, that criticised very 
adversely the workers' movement, which was 
attracting notice. Its aim was to educate in 
a patriotic and religious direction. Two points 
of view struggled for supremacy in me. I 
took the warmest interest in the events that 
occurred in the royal families, and was much 
better informed on the deeds of archdukes 
and the surroundings of princesses than on 
the things which concerned my nearest 
neighbours. I mourned with Spain for 
Alphonso XII., and I treasured as though it 
had been a relic the picture which came with 

83 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

my newspaper of Marie Christina as she 
showed herself to her subjects with her infant 
in her arms. For the sake of Alexander of 
Battenberg I desired war and defeat for 
Russia, and the Bulgarian Prince was to be 
found for a long time in my picture gallery. 
I took the death of the Crown Prince of 
Austria so much to heart that I wept a whole 
day. But not only the fate of dynasties 
affected me, political events held me in 
suspense. The consideration in my paper 
of the possibility of a war with Russia roused 
my patriotic enthusiasm. I saw my brother 
already returning from the battlefield covered 
with glory, and I would have much liked to 
see myself in the role of the " Heroine of 
Worth," of whom I had read in a novel, and 
whom William had distinguished with the 
" Iron Cross." 

I read, besides, the histories of the French 
and Viennese revolutions, which were lent me by 
the father of one of my companions. I could 
not for a long time understand and interpret 
them completely. Indeed, when a particularly 
strong anti-Semitic feeling was noticeable in 
political life, I sympathised with it for a 
time. A broad sheet, " How Israel attained 
to power and to the sovereignty over all the 
nations of the earth," fascinated me. There 
1 acquired (in addition to the many atrocious 

84 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

deeds which were wrongly ascribed to the 
people of Israel) a knowledge of the fabled 
human sacrifice in their ritual. I read further 
that the Jews would insult "the daughters of 
the Christians " to spare their own wives 
and daughters. This assertion influenced me 
most. I also wanted to contribute towards 
keeping in check the Jewish attacks ; and I 
resolved to withdraw my custom from the 
Jewish shops where I had hitherto bought 
my clothes. I persuaded my companions to 
do the same. 

About this time an Anarchist group was 
active. Some mysterious murders which had 
taken place were ascribed to the Anarchists, 
and the police made use of them to oppress 
the rising workmen's movement. I followed 
it all with burning interest. None of those 
details for the sake of which people say 
women read the papers appealed to me. I 
scarcely glanced at them. I followed the 
trials of the Anarchists with passionate sym- 
pathy. I read all the speeches, and because, 
as always happens, Social Democrats, whom 
the authorities really wanted to attack, were 
among the accused, I learnt to know their 
views. I became full of enthusiasm. Every 
single Social Democrat whom I learnt to 
know in the papers seemed to me a hero. 

It never occurred to me that I might join 

86 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

in their fight. Everything that I read of 
them seemed so high and lofty that it would 
have appeared absurd to me to think that 
I, an ignorant, unknown, and poor creature 
might also one day take a part in their 
struggles. 

There was unrest among the workers : 
unemployment had much increased, whole 
industries were at a standstill, and the police 
thought they could suppress the discontent 
and the growing poverty with underhand 
tricks. They broke up trade unions and con- 
fiscated their funds. That, naturally, increased 
the feelings of resentment, and demonstrations 
of protest followed. When these were re- 
peated the military entered the " threatened " 
streets. Both infantry and cavalry were 
sent. In the evenings I rushed in the 
greatest excitement from the factory to the 
scene of the disturbance. The military did 
not frighten me ; I only left the place when 
it was "cleared." 

Later on we lived with one of my brothers 
who had married. Friends came to him, 
among them some intelligent workmen. They 
read the union paper of their branch, and I 
was also interested in it. One of these 
workmen was particularly intelligent, and I 
liked talking with him best of all. He had 
taken several journeys, and could talk on 

86 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

many subjects. He was the first Social 
Democrat whom I learnt to know. He 
brought me many books, and explained to 
me the difference between Anarchism and 
Socialism. I heard from him, also, for the 
first time, what a republic was, and in spite 
of my former enthusiasm for royal dynasties, 
I also declared myself in favour of a republican 
form of government. I saw everything so 
near and so clearly, that I actually counted 
the weeks which must still elapse before the 
revolution of state and society could take 
place. 

From this workman I received the first 
Social Democratic party organ. He did not 
buy it regularly, but only when he came upon 
it accidentally, as, alas ! so many do. But I 
begged him to bring me the paper every 
week, and became myself a constant subscriber. 
The theoretical parts I could not at first under- 
stand, but I understood, and took hold of, 
all that was written of the sufferings of the 
working classes, and I first learnt from it to 
understand and judge of my own lot. I learnt 
to see that all that I had suffered was the 
result not of a divine ordinance, but of an 
unjust organisation of society. The descrip- 
tions of the arbitrary application of the laws 
against the workers filled me with boundless 
indignation. The annulment of the law 

87 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

against Socialists in Germany, under which 
the Social Democrats had suffered so severely, 
was greeted by me with great joy, although 
I was outside the party and known by no 
one. I had not been at any meetings ; I did 
not even know that women could attend 
their meetings. Besides, it was quite against 
my ideas to go alone to an inn. I shunned 
almost every pleasure, every distraction, to 
avoid companions who did not suit my frame 
of mind. My mother had always impressed 
upon me that "a good girl is sought for at 
home." So I always sat at home busy with 
a book or needlework, whilst half uncon- 
sciously I developed a powerful longing for 
intercourse with companions who would share 
my thoughts and feelings. 

In the factory I became another woman 
after my thoughts had somewhat freed them- 
selves from my late melancholy sentimentality. 
I had formerly held myself aloof so that too 
much intimacy might not arise between my 
fellow- workers and myself. At first it was 
put down to shyness and modesty, then, 
when I did not alter, to pride. But as I was 
always pleasant, and never held aloof when 
it was a question of some help to be given 
in common to a fellow - worker, they had 
become accustomed to my character. The 
workmen also who joked with the girls in the 

88 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

courtyard during the intervals at last let 
me go my own way. They very often called 
me proud when I would not share in their 
diversions and avoided talking with the 
men. " She thinks, forsooth, that she will 
get a count " was often said. 

Now that I had an object before me and 
was thoroughly saturated with the thought 
that every one ought to know what had been 
made known to me, I gave up my reticence, 
and told my comrades all that I had read of 
the workers' movement. Formerly I had 
often told stories when they had begged me 
for them. But instead of narrating Ohnet's 
" Owner of a Foundry," or of the fate of some 
queen, I now held forth on oppression and 
exploitation. I told of accumulated wealth 
in the hands of a few, and introduced as a 
contrast the shoemakers who had no shoes 
and the tailors who had no clothes. I read 
aloud in the intervals the articles in the 
Social Democratic paper, and explained what 
Socialism was as far as I understood it. I 
defended my party passionately when people 
talked of Anarchists as though they were the 
same as Socialists. My activity was not un- 
noticed — the foremen noticed it and spoke of 
me. But I strove anxiously to give no just 
occasion for finding fault with me. Formerly, 
like the others, I had often arrived late ; now 

80 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

I accustomed myself to be punctual. I was 
painfully conscientious in my work ; the con- 
viction had instinctively come to me that if 
one wished to serve a great cause one must 
also do one's duty in small things. I should 
not then have understood exactly how to 
express it, but actually I was dominated by 
this point of view. In the intervals when I 
read aloud the contents of my newspaper and 
tried to explain them, it often happened that 
one of the clerks passing by shook his head 
and said to another clerk : " The girl speaks 
like a man." 

I now fetched my newspaper myself every 
week. When I entered the sales-room of 
the Social Democratic party for the first time, 
I felt as though I were entering a sanctuary. 
And when I gave my first 2|d. towards the 
election fund of the German Social Demo- 
cracy under the name of "Firm Will," I felt 
myself already a member of the great army 
of combatants, although I did not yet belong 
to any union, and, with the exception of my 
brother's friend, had not yet spoken to any 
Social Democrat. 

As I constantly read in my paper, "Get 
new subscribers," " Increase the circulation of 
your paper," I struggled to work in this direc- 
tion. When I was able to fetch every week 
not only one paper, but two, then three, and 

90 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

finally ten copies, my feeling of joy was beyond 
all comparison. My journey for the paper had 
always something of a festive nature for me. 
On that day I put on my best dress, as I used 
to do when I went to church. 

Although very little was written about 
religion in the Social Democratic newspapers, 
I had become free from all religious ideas. 
It had not happened all at once, but had 
come about gradually. I no longer believed 
in a God nor a future life ; but the thought 
still came to me again and again that there 
might be a possibility of the truth of it. On 
the same day on which I had endeavoured to 
prove to my fellow-workers that the creation 
of the world in six days was only a fairy tale, 
that there could not be an Omnipotent God, 
because, if there were, so many men would 
not have to suffer such hardships in their 
lives — on the evening of that day I folded 
my hands as I lay in bed and raised my eyes 
to the image of the Madonna, and I again 
involuntarily thought: "Still, it may perhaps 
be true." I had told no one that such doubts 
troubled me. But I made use of the descrip- 
tions of Siberia and the horrible events in 
the fortress of St Petersburg which became 
known, and which I read about in my paper, to 
prove to my companions that there could be 
no God directing the lives of men. 

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AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

My Social Democratic convictions became 
stronger, and I had to suffer a good deal in the 
factory. The foreman, who had exercised his 
tyrannical power over the whole of our room, 
was always brutal and ill-tempered. He 
seemed to me just like a devil. He was the 
first man whom I really hated, and although 
many years have passed since I withdrew from 
the sphere of his power, I feel even to-day 
hatred and resentment when I think of him. 
When in the course of years many things in 
the factory became worse, the changes were 
mainly attributed to him. He could make 
life in the factory a hell for any man who 
had incurred his anger, even if he had only 
tried to defend himself from an unjust accusa- 
tion. I had hitherto never given him cause to 
trouble himself particularly about me. Now 
that was all changed, as he noticed my 
influence on my colleagues. It did not please 
him, and he began to observe me. He began 
to supervise my work more particularly ; where 
he had formerly contented himself with look- 
ing after me once a day or had often given 
that up, he now came ten times a day. I was 
not safe for a minute as to whether he would 
not come and look at my work in order to find 
fault with it. If I stood up to get a glass of 
water, he would follow me, and stand still until 
I had drunk it, in order to follow me back 

02 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

to the table. He followed up every step I 
took, every movement that I made. One day 
my employer spoke to me to tell me that the 
foreman was displeased with me. "Consider," 
said he, at the end, "that you have to look 
after an old mother." I was so disconcerted 
and taken aback that I could not answer 
immediately. But when I had collected my- 
self, I looked for him and begged him to say 
why the foreman was dissatisfied with me. 
I told him that in spite of the constant in- 
spection my work was always in order. The 
manufacturer — I no longer looked upon him as 
my benefactor — looked at me for a minute, and 
then went away saying : " Very well ; work on 
as you have done hitherto." 

I had no notion yet of the " Woman Ques- 
tion." There was nothing about it in my 
newspaper, and now I only read Social 
Democratic publications. I was held to be an 
exception, and I looked upon myself as such. 
I considered the social question, as far as I 
then understood it, as a man's question just 
like politics. Only I would have liked to be 
a man, to have a right to busy myself with 
politics. I only heard for the first time that 
Social Democrats wanted to procure for 
women equal political rights with men when, 
after the Congress at Hainfield of the Austrian 

93 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

Social Democratic Labour Party, I read the 
Social Democratic Programme. But I still 
did not know how women themselves might 
share in the work of the party. Then I read 
one day the following article in the Social 
Democratic newspaper. 

"'Woman in the Nineteenth Century * — this 
is the name of a great pageant that was held 
for benevolent objects. The chief object of 
the original exhibition was the ' Presentation 
of Women's Industry.' It is of a piece with 
the complete frivolity, the complete thought- 
less audacity, of benevolent people to make 
the subject of a great pageant out of the 
sorest point of the whole social organisation — 
that ulcer which contains in itself and produces 
the whole misery of present day humanity. 
'Woman in the Nineteenth Century' — the slave 
who in a double meaning is treated as goods for 
sale, as an object of lust and an object of sweat- 
ing — the ' Woman of the Nineteenth Century ' 
as the queen of the pageant ! The industry 
of women was represented : we saw, indeed, 
the dirty women brickmakers admired by the 
directors of companies ; or the lace-makers, 
with their daily wage of 7|d. for sixteen hours 
labour, complimented by their sweaters, the 
employers of the lace industry ; or the slaves 
of the weaving and spinning industries, and 
the exploiters probably made an attempt to 

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AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

make clear to them the advantages of night- 
work ; or the poor women who stand in the 
nail factory with hands grown horny and burnt 
— all of them trampled on, sweated, kept 
in drudgery, driven to death. Or has the 
noble management perhaps represented the 
governesses, the educated domestic slaves, as 
servants in all the lower grades are unedu- 
cated slaves, both subject to the unbridled 
ill-temper, the undisguised scorn, of these 
benevolent folk. And how was the industry 
of 'Woman in the Nineteenth Century,' which 
is called prostitution, represented to them, the 
prostitution * sanctified by legal marriage,' 
and the prostitution of the street. If the 
whole spectacle had not been a hypocritical 
lie, a diabolical self-deception, had a single 
ray of the naked truth penetrated into the 
glittering hall, then, indeed, the picture of 
'Woman in the Nineteenth Century' would 
have sufficed to rouse the management from 
their infatuation, to frighten them away in 
shame and horror. But they are blind, and 
where they are not blind, they hug their self- 
deception. How could they live without this 
self-created blindness ? " 

I read that in the Social Democratic paper, 
in my newspaper, as I called it in joyful pride, 
and its effect on me was indescribable. I 
did not sleep — it was as though scales had 

95 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

fallen from my eyes, and I pondered over 
what I had read. My state of excitement 
continued, and everything in me spurred me 
on to action. I could not possibly keep what 
I had read to myself — the words came to my 
lips in due form when I wanted to speak. I 
mounted a chair at home, and held forth as 
I would have done if I had to speak at a 
meeting. I was called a " born orator." A 
friend of my brother's brought me books from 
the library of the trade union of which he was 
a member. How I envied all who could be 
active. " If I were only a man," I kept repeat- 
ing. I did not then know that I, though only 
a girl, could do anything in the Socialist move- 
ment or in political life. I never heard nor 
read of women in meetings, and besides, all the 
exhortations in "my paper" were directed to- 
wards workmen and men. When the Socialist 
Congress at Paris resolved to cease work for 
one day as a demonstration for the eight hours' 
day, I stood apart and could do nothing for 
"the cause." What I told my colleagues, my 
help in circulating the paper, seemed to me so 
paltry and insignificant as to offer me no con- 
solation. I learned later to recognise of what 
priceless worth such activity is in spreading 
Socialism. 

I received many books from the library 
of the trade union which required earnest 

96 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

thought. I read the Neue Zeit {^Modern 
Times), and I gleaned something from all 
the annual publications in the library. But 
I wanted to educate myself thoroughly, and 
I had also books brought me that were not 
Socialist. I worked through nine volumes of 
the " History of the World," and I also wanted 
to study the " Book of Discoveries." But 
all my endeavours were useless, I could not 
force myself to like this dry literature, only 
the part about cork interested me because 
it was connected with my trade. 

Friedrich Engel's "The Position of the 
Working Classes in England " impressed me 
deeply and strengthened my revolutionary 
sentiments. A little pamphlet of Lafargue's, 
"The Right to Idleness," pleased me ex- 
tremely, and, when I began to speak at 
meetings, it furnished me with subject matter. 
I felt great enthusiasm for Ferdinand Lassalle. 
I read again and again "Science and the 
Workers," and then " Holidays, the Press, and 
the Workers" in order to thoroughly under- 
stand them. Liebknecht's speech also, which 
appeared as a pamphlet, called " Knowledge 
is Power," belonged to the first Socialist 
writings which influenced me. I learnt by 
heart a great number of revolutionary poems 
of Freedom. 

Although I busied myself so much with 
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AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

Socialism I had never as yet been to any 
meeting ; but I followed all accounts of them 
with burning interest, and knew the names of 
all the speakers. But at last I made up my 
mind to be present at a meeting. When one 
happened to be held on a Sunday at which the 
best known and most eminent leaders were to 
speak, my brother went to it with me. It was 
in December, and dry cold weather had pre- 
vailed for weeks. Many people were out of 
work, and the sky was observed most anxiously 
to see if snow might not be expected. One 
often heard it said : " Even God forgets the 
poor." The long wished for snow had fallen 
on this Sunday so important for me. We had 
to work our way through masses of snow. 
The meeting was in the great hall of a neigh- 
bouring workmen's Union. When we arrived 
men were already standing shoulder to shoulder ; 
they were rubbing their hands and stamping 
their feet to warm themselves. My heart beat, 
and I felt how my face glowed as we pressed 
through the crowd to get near the speaker's 
platform. I was the only woman in the meet- 
ing, and all faces were turned in astonishment 
towards me as we passed through. I could 
only see the speaker dimly, as he was hidden 
in a cloud of tobacco and cigar smoke. He 
spoke on the "Capitalist Mode of Production." 
And here were new revelations to me. I 
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AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

heard clearly and convincingly expressed that 
which I had instinctively felt but had never 
been able to think out. The speaker began 
with a reference to the fall of snow, and from 
it explained what was perverted and foolish 
in the present order of society. What in a 
sensible state of society would be looked upon 
as a natural incident and a hindrance to com- 
merce is to-day esteemed a piece of good 
fortune, by means of which some hundreds of 
men are preserved from starvation, men who 
have no work, not because they will not work, 
but because through a senseless organisation of 
society and our short-sighted legislation other 
men must work so long that they die of 
exhaustion. 

This introduction was fixed in my memory, 
and my mind elaborated it. I went to a 
second meeting on Christmas Day at which 
two women were present beside myself. The 
speaker dealt with the " Contrasts of Crasses." 
He spoke well, effectively, fluently. I heard 
illustrated the sorrowful history of my own 
Christmas festivities and the deprivations of 
the poor contrasted with the superfluities of the 
rich. Everything urged me to exclaim : " I 
know that too, I can also tell of such things." 
But I did not yet venture on a word, I had not 
even the courage to applaud. I considered it 
unwomanly and only right for men. Besides, 

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AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

they only talked of men at the meetings. 
None of the speakers addressed the women, 
who certainly were only present in very small 
numbers. It all appeared to be about the 
suffering and misery of men. I perceived 
with sorrow that no one spoke about work- 
ing women, that no one turned to summon 
them to the fight. 

The third meeting that I attended, and which 
I mention on account of its character, was an 
election meeting. The police allowed no 
women at these meetings, and yet I wanted 
so much to be present. My entreaties pre- 
vailed on the organisers to let me in ; but I 
was obliged to stand quite at the back in a 
corner. For the first time I heard militarism 
discussed from the Socialist standpoint. And 
again some of my earlier ideals were shattered. 
Until now I had looked on militarism as some- 
thing unavoidable and indispensable. The 
fact that my brother had worn the " Emperor's 
coat " had filled me with pride, and he who had 
not fulfilled this particular duty would not have 
seemed to me to be a true man. When in my 
girlish dreams I had pictured the man who 
would be my husband, military fitness was 
one of the qualities which he must possess. 
And now even this ideal was taken away. 
Militarism was described as an oppression of 
the people, and I was obliged to agree with this. 

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AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

War was the massacre of men, not for the 
defence of the frontier of one's country against 
a wicked, savage enemy, but in the interests of 
dynasties, dictated by greed of land or con- 
trived by diplomatic intrigues. 

All that I heard appeared to me so natural 
that I was only astonished because so few men 
understood these things. 

A new world was opened to me in these 
meetings, and I longed with all my heart and 
mind to take an active part in it. I wanted to 
join in the helping and fighting, and did not 
yet know how I could do so. But under all 
these influences I was becoming quite another 
being. People who understood nothing of my 
political ideals, or who would not understand 
anything of them, appeared to me simply as 
enemies. But I wanted to convert, and to 
discuss politics. I began to go with my 
brothers and their wives to parties which I 
had formerly avoided. 

I had been called proud and haughty, and 
had been urged not to lead a convent life but 
to enjoy my youth. If I went sometimes, I 
seemed to myself to be making a sacrifice. 
Now I went willingly. I wanted to have an 
opportunity of talking about Social Democracy, 
and was of opinion that one could talk about 
politics better with men than with women. 

I only learnt later how much I had 
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AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

over-estimated the political knowledge of men. 
I wanted to collect for the election fund. When 
I discussed this at a merry party, one man, a 
tradesman, said: "For the election fund?^ 
Who is he ? Oh, I know the ostler who met 
with an accident." And I, a young girl, with 
no political rights, was obliged to tell the men 
deemed worthy of a vote what the election 
fund was, and why we ought to collect for it. 
They all wondered where I had acquired my 
"smartness," and who had taught it me. I 
collected in the factory also. At first only 
among the fellow-workers I knew best, but 
the circle was always widening. 

Then came the propaganda for the labour 
holiday on the ist of May. This brought me 
into a state of feverish excitement. I wanted 
to work for it, and sought for companions who 
thought as I did. I had noticed among the 
workers one who wore a broad hat. I hoped 
from it that he might be a Social Democrat. 
I watched for an opportunity to speak to him, 
and did things I had never done before. The 
workmen washed their hands at the end of the 
day's work in the courtyard. Many girls also 
went in. I had never done so to avoid being 
obliged to hear the talk which was distasteful to 
me. But now I mixed with them and succeeded 

' " Election fund " in German is one word, and with " the " 
before it might be taken for "our friend, election-fund." 

102 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

in speaking to the owner of the broad hat. 
I was not deceived. He was an earnest, 
intelligent workman, and a member of the trade 
union. How glad I was to know I had some 
one of my opinions in the factory. If he 
worked among the men and I among the 
women, we must succeed in getting a Labour 
holiday on the ist of May. 

And yet we did not succeed. The workers 
were too dependent on the manufacturer and 
were unable to understand how they could 
undertake anything on their own initiative. 
Dismissal was threatened to all who did not 
come to work on ist May. Even on the 
last of April I was endeavouring to urge the 
women in my room to a common demonstra- 
tion for the Labour holiday on ist May. I 
proposed that when the master appeared all 
should stand up and I would lay our views 
before him. The standing up altogether would 
make known our solidarity. Many quite 
agreed with me ; but the old woman who 
had worked for decades in the factory con- 
sidered that we ought not to do this to the 
"master." And so all kept their seats when 
he came. Then I wanted to beg for myself 
to be set free ; but in the evening we were 
told: "Who does not work on ist May, can 
remain away till Monday." That frightened 
me. I was a poor girl, ist May fell on a 

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AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

Thursday : could I lose half a week's pay ? 
Finally I should not have shrunk from it, 
but I was afraid of being dismissed altogether ; 
and where could I get such good work ? And 
what would become of my poor mother, if I 
were out of work for a long time ? The 
whole of my sorrowful past rose up before 
me and I gave way. I gave way, but with 
clenched fists and angry feelings. 

On ist May, when I went to the factory 
in my Sunday dress, I saw thousands of men 
decorated with symbols of May hastening 
to the meeting. My brother and his friend 
belonged to the fortunate ones who kept 
holiday. I do not know what pain I can 
compare with that which did not leave me 
all that day. I was constantly expecting 
that the Social Democrats would come to 
fetch us by force out of the factory. I re- 
joiced at the idea, the others were frightened. 
The wooden shutters before the windows 
were not taken down nor opened the whole 
day lest the window should be broken with 
stones. At the next payment of wages every 
man and woman received a printed form on 
which was to be read : "In recognition of 
fidelity to duty on the part of my staff on 
1st May every man shall receive two florins 
and every woman one." I took my florin 
which I would have much preferred to have 

104 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

thrown down at my employer's feet — to the 
office of the fund for those punished for 
keeping the ist of May. 

On the next May Day I also kept holiday. 
I did not rest a day without carrying on pro- 
paganda for it. And, as after many years I 
feel with satisfaction, I adopted good tactics- 
Among my companions were some who were 
related to master workmen, and who therefore 
took a special position. I won these for 
May Day. I inspired them with the aims 
for which the Labour Day stood, and they 
allowed themselves to be chosen for the 
deputation which had to lay before our 
employer the request to be allowed the 
workers' holiday. It was a little revolution. 
Wives, daughters, sisters of master workmen 
for May Day ! My friend on the men's side 
had done his share nobly, and we received 
the workers' holiday free on condition that 
we had to make up the loss of wages to all 
those who did not wish to join in the holiday. 
We rifled our money boxes in which we had 
put our savings for Christmas, as three of 
our companions were found who were not 
ashamed to let us pay them for their 
holiday. 

Shortly afterwards I made my first public 
speech. It was on a Sunday morning at a 
branch meeting. I told no one where I 

106 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

was going, and as I often went alone on a 
Sunday morning to visit a gallery or a 
museum my departure created no sensation. 
The meeting was attended by three hundred 
men and nine women, as I learnt later from 
the branch paper. As women's work was 
beginning to play an important part in this 
branch, and the men were already feeling 
the effect of the supply of cheaper women 
workers, at this meeting the meaning of 
trade organisation was to be discussed. There 
had been a special endeavour to make the 
meeting known to working women and 
although hundreds worked in a single factory 
only nine women had come. When the 
summoner of the meeting announced this 
and the speaker referred to it, I felt great 
shame at the indifference of my companions 
of my own sex. I took all the expressions as 
personal to myself and felt myself attacked 
by the speakers. The speaker described the 
conditions of women's labour and showed that 
the holding back, the absence of wants, and 
the contentedness of women workers were 
crimes which drew all other evils after them 
in their train. He also spoke generally on 
the woman question, and I heard for the 
first time from him of August Bebel's book, 
" Woman and Socialism." 

When the speaker had finished the chair- 
106 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

man announced that those present should 
express their opinions on this important 
question. I had the feeling that I must 
speak. I fancied that all eyes were directed 
towards me, that all were wanting to hear 
what I could say in defence of my sex. I 
lifted my hand and requested permission to 
speak. They cried "Bravo" before I opened 
my mouth ; merely from the fact that a work- 
ing woman wanted to speak. As I mounted 
my steps to the platform my eyes swam and 
my throat was parched — I felt as though I 
were choking. But I conquered my excite- 
ment and made my first speech. I spoke of 
the sufferings, the sweating, and the mental 
poverty of working women. I laid special 
emphasis on the last, for it seemed to me 
the foundation of all the other backwardness 
and harmful characteristics of working women. 
I spoke of all that I had experienced and 
had observed among my fellow workers. 
I demanded enlightenment, culture, and 
knowledge for my sex, and I begged the 
men to help us to them. 

The applause in the meeting was bound- 
less ; they surrounded me and wanted to 
know who I was ; they took me at first for 
a member of the Branch, and requested me to 
write an article addressed to working women 
for the Union paper on the lines of my speech. 

107 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

That was certainly an awkward task. I 
had only been to school for three years, I 
had no notion of spelling nor of composition, 
and my writing was like that of a child as I 
had never had the opportunity of practising it. 
Yet I promised to try to get the article 
written. 

I felt as though I were in an ecstasy of 
delight as I went home. An unspeakable 
feeling of happiness inspired me, it seemed 
to me as though I had conquered the world. 
No sleep visited my eyes that night. I 
wrote the article for the Union paper. It 
was short, and not well expressed, and ran 
as follows : — 

'* On the Position of Women occupied 
AS Workers in Factories 

"Working Women! Have you ever once 
considered your position ."* Do you not all 
suffer from the brutality and sweating of your 
so-called masters ? Many slaves for wages, 
work from early morning till late at night, whilst 
thousands of their sisters, out of work, besiege 
the doors of factories and workshops because 
it is not possible for them to obtain work to 
protect them from hunger and to procure 
necessary clothing for their bodies. But how 
far does the wage itself suffice for such long, 
continuous work? 

"Is it possible for an unmarried working 
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AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

woman to lead a life fit for a human being? 
And first of all the married working woman ? 
Is it possible for her in spite of strenuous work 
to care properly for her children ? Must she 
not hunger and starve in order to procure 
what is absolutely necessary for them ? That 
is the position of the women workers, and if 
we look on idly it will never be improved ; on 
the contrary, we shall continually be more 
trodden down and trampled upon. 

"Working Women I Show that you are 
not quite depraved and mentally stunted. 
Rise and recognise that men and women 
workers must join hands in a common bond 
of union. Do not close your ears to the cry 
which goes out to you. Stand by the organisa- 
tion which will also train women for the social 
and political struggle. 

" Visit meetings, read workmen's papers, 
become workers conscious of the aims and 
various divisions of the Social Democratic 
party." 

Here I must mention one circumstance that 
was fortunate for me. I mentioned in one 
place that my eldest brother had gone on the 
tramp for work after our father's death. We 
did not hear of him for many years and later 
had only met for a short time. My brother 
had become a Social Democrat, and was an 
enthusiastic member of the party long before 
I made my first speech. We had heard a 
rumour of it, it had been told us that he had 

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AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

such curious views that he looked on all 
men as his brothers — he was a Socialist. It 
appeared to me romantic, then I myself 
developed his mode of thought. But our 
mother blamed all that she heard of his 
opinions, never dreaming that under her eyes 
her daughter had grown into a belief in the 
same ideas. 

At some worker's meeting at which I was 
present I met my eldest brother, and I was 
delighted to possess a fellow believer in a 
member of my family. Through him I now 
learnt to know many persons whom I had 
only hitherto admired at a distance. 

One day I was sent for to my " master's " 
office. This was the first time it had happened 
during the seven years I had worked in the 
factory. My heart beat indeed as I walked 
towards the office followed by the curious 
looks of my colleagues. The manufacturer 
awaited me with the Social Democratic paper 
in his hand. My name, with others, was 
attached to an appeal to collect for the press 
funds for starting a Social Democratic paper 
for women. My employer addressed me as 
" Miss ," which was not his custom in talk- 
ing to the other workers, and asked whether I 
knew the paper and had signed the appeal. On 
receiving my answer in the affirmative he spoke 

110 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

to this effect : " I can give you no orders as to 
how you spend your free time ; but I beg this 
one thing of you : Abandon any agitation for 
these objects in my factory. I Hkewise forbid 
any meeting for the support of your aims. I 
will have peace and quiet in my house." 
Finally he added : "I will give you one 
warning on your way ; you are young and 
cannot judge of what you are doing but 
observe that politics is a thankless business." 
Although I resolved to take to heart the 
words of the manufacturer and not to carry 
on an agitation in the factory, I could not 
avoid doing so. For many things had become 
worse, many favourable conditions had been 
abolished. In some factories, owing to the 
influence of the May Day celebrations, they 
were only working ten hours, but we still 
always worked eleven. We were to be fined 
if we had ventured to join in the ist of 
May celebrations. In that my employer did 
not differ from so many other manufacturers. 
He felt himself the master and bread-giver, 
and the workmen ought to be grateful for 
his kindness and favour. Because we had 
ventured for once to carry through a course 
of action of which he disapproved, we must 
be punished. It was only when I was no 
longer in the factory that the working day 
was shortened by an hour, but the written 

111 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

pledge was exacted from all men and women 
workers that they would have nothing to do 
with me and the Socialist agitation. 

I saw many things now with other eyes than 
formerly. A number of girls were working in 
the factory who had not yet reached the age 
prescribed by law. If the inspector's visit 
were expected — and it was always known in 
some astonishing manner when the visit was 
to be expected — it was enjoined on those 
children that in case they were asked their 
age, they were to say they were already 
fourteen. Formerly, like the others, I had 
thought "our good employer does these un- 
pleasant things because he is sorry for the 
poor." Since I had read Engel's " Position 
of the Working Classes in England " I judged 
differently. I had now other ideas about child 
labour, and when I had learnt to observe ob- 
jectively my horrible childhood in the work- 
shops of the middlewoman and in the factories, 
I drew other conclusions. Besides I saw that 
just those working women who had entered the 
factories as children were the most Conserva- 
tive and the most impervious to all appeals 
for solidarity. They considered themselves 
as part of the factory without recognising how 
small a share of the wealth created by it came 
to them. They were the most humble and 
the most cringing of all the workers, and only 

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AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

had a feeling of gratitude to their good master 
who had given them bread all their lives. 
They looked with hatred and horror on my 
actions and on those of my companions who 
thought as I did. What wonder that I now 
liked best to draw the attention of the factory 
inspector to the employment of children of 
thirteen years of age, and how everything 
was cleaned and polished when the official 
was expected. A frenzy of cleanliness existed 
whilst at other times dust and dirt were allowed 
to accumulate peacefully for weeks. 

My critical observations were directed also 
to other things. We belonged now to a sick 
fund, and our representative on the governing 
body had always up to now been nominated 
by the manufacturer in the name of the 
employees. I now knew that we had the 
right to choose him. In conjunction with 
the workmen whom I have already mentioned 
as sharing my opinions, I made this right a 
reality. And it actually came to a meeting 
in the factory courtyard, which passed without 
any further consequences. Great strikes came 
to pass, thousands of fathers of families had 
to be supported in order to save them, their 
wives and children from starvation. The 
organisations had no longer any funds, the 
workmen's press asked for collections, and I 
also considered it my duty to ask for 

113 H 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

contributions from my fellow-workers — men and 
women. I was successful with most. But 
the manufacturer heard of the collections. I 
appeared to him to be troublesome, for one 
day he again spoke to me. He asked me 
to bring him some writing of my own, he 
wanted to make use of me elsewhere. I was 
anxious and frightened when I thought of 
my bad spelling and ugly writing. I was 
very little troubled about what I had written. 
I was just then reading Goethe's Poems and 
I copied a stanza from Prometheus which 
pleased me extremely : 

" When I was a child 
And knew not whence I came 
Nor whither I was going, 
I turned my wandering eye 
Towards the sun as though beyond it 
Was an ear to hear my plaint, 
A heart like mine 
To pity the oppressed." 

I was directed the next day to take the 
place of a sick clerk. A few years ago I 
should have been exceedingly delighted at 
this request. How I should have rejoiced 
at not being obliged to continue to be a 
factory hand ! It would have appeared to me 
to be quite easy to overcome all difficulties. 
Now I had become more sensitive. It 
oppressed me to occupy a place for which 
all preliminary knowledge was wanting in me. 

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AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

I certainly understood mental arithmetic, but 
I had no idea how to calculate with a pencil. 
The little multiplication and division that I 
had learnt in the elementary school was long 
forgotten. If, however, I had felt a strong 
inclination for this post, I would not have 
been afraid of learning, but the new position 
took me away from my colleagues. I could 
no longer carry on a propaganda. Since my 
first speech I was in much request for meetings. 
Every Sunday, and often several times in the 
week, there were meetings at which I had 
to speak. But in the office I had to work 
an hour later in the evenings and it was 
then too late to attend meetings. On the 
whole my hours of work were shorter, and 
I did not have to go till 8 in the morning, 
and had two hours free at noon so that I 
could go home, and I at once received a 
florin more a week. But it gave me no satis- 
faction. Only political activity could content 
me. When the sick clerk was well I went 
back to the factory room, which I much pre- 
ferred to the post in the office, for which I 
had no aptitude, and where there was no one 
to tell me how to pick up what I had forgotten 
or not learnt. 

I had become an object of general attention. 
My speeches were written about in the papers, 
the police served me with notices to learn 

116 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

about the charges which I had raised at 
meetings over cases of sweating of working 
women and of ill treatment of domestic 
servants. The agitation engrossed me more 
and more. I had become a member of the 
managing committee of an organisation of 
working women, and had to take part in 
many meetings. I was quite engrossed with 
my public work and was ready for any 
sacrifice. I had often to give up my dinner 
to pay for the fee for opening the gates 
after hours when I came home late in the 
evening. Then I bought for three farthings 
some soup for dinner and bread. But it 
would not have done for my mother to know 
that my public work cost money. So I had 
actually secretly to go without something in 
order to deceive her, for had she known 
that it cost money when I made a speech 
at a meeting it would have been worse 
for me. 

The books which I wanted to study I bor- 
rowed from the library of the Union. I spoke 
on "The Press and Literature," on the "Aims 
and Use of Organisation," but most willingly 
on the " Position of Working Women." Then 
I could speak on what I knew from my 
own experience. My sufferings were also 
the sufferings of others. As I developed my 
work under such difficult conditions people 

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AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

felt all the more the truth of what I said. 
When I urged others to overcome all diffi- 
culties, I used no empty phrases, because I 
myself was constantly struggling against just 
such great obstacles, against material poverty, 
and against the mental pain I had to endure 
through my mother. Even then malicious 
speeches were made on the luxuries in the 
lives of Social Democrats. My mother heard 
of them, and as she was told that I was called 
a leader in the papers, my situation became 
worse still. Why was not her daughter, who 
was so brilliant, not also paid ? So she asked. 
I had to take refuge in many necessary fibs 
in order to make her feel more favourably. 
But, at the same time, I suffered from poor 
nourishment and the double work, to work 
eleven hours in the factory and to attend 
committees and meetings two or three times 
a week, which in those stormy times always 
ended at a late hour. It was worst of all 
once on a Saturday evening when I had to 
give an address on the "Woman Question" 
in a very distant district and only reached 
home at midnight. I had to start again at 
5 in the morning to reach a station nearly 
three miles off to make a three hours' journey 
to a meeting in the country. Again I only 
reached home at midnight, and had to walk 
for an hour without having eaten one good 

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meal in the day. At home I dared not let 
anything be noticed of it ; with painfully 
repressed tears of anguish I had to represent 
things to my mother as though I had earned 
something by my journey. If my comrades 
in the country had had a suspicion of how 
it was with me, they would certainly not 
have allowed me to suffer such privations. 
But I myself could give nothing away, and I 
would not receive anything from others. 
Perhaps this point of view may seem exagger- 
ated to many, but it was only the consequence 
of my former mode of looking at things. The 
next day, tired and without proper nourishment, 
I had to be at the factory at 7 a.m. When 
I had worked for about an hour a sudden 
giddiness attacked me, and I fell from my 
chair unconscious. I was taken home and 
examined by a doctor, who again recommended 
good food, fresh air, and plenty of sleep. But 
I had only the one wish, to be well again, 
and to be able to learn enough to be capable 
of performing my duties. Since I had become 
ill again I lived in a constant state of anxiety. 
In the midst of a speech my eyes swam and 
I fancied I should lose consciousness, and I 
used superhuman energy in order to conquer 
my fear. 

When I next went into the country I 
succeeded in persuading my mother to 

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accompany me. If I had her beside me, my 
anxiety tormented me less, I felt more secure. 
For the first time she heard me speak at a 
meeting to hundreds of people. She heard 
the applause which was accorded to me, and 
heard with what appreciation earnest men 
spoke of me to her. She cried — not at what 
I said as many did — but from pity because 
she had the impression that speaking so 
loudly for so long would hurt my health. She 
was not able to take in the meaning of my 
words. She, who could not read a line and 
whose German vocabulary, in consequence of 
her Bohemian parentage, was not very rich, 
could not understand my expressions at all. 
It has always grieved me that I have found 
no understanding sympathy in the mother I 
loved so much. 

In the factory I felt more and more uncom- 
fortable. On all lips the question was shaping 
itself: " How long still?" The State authori- 
ties began to give me more of their attention. 
Detectives came to our house to enquire 
about me. My mother, who heard of it, was 
very uneasy. I myself was anxious on her 
account. What would become of her if they 
imprisoned me ? But still I could not give 
up my work. I was too thoroughly permeated 
with, and inspired by, Socialist aims. Once 
a paper was sent to me at the factory, in which 

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AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

it was stated that the State authorities had 
ordered my arrest. " What will my mother 
say ? " was my first thought. But the paper 
had exaggerated. Only an examination was 
initiated, which, later, was discontinued. 

When I shortly after was chosen to devote 
all my time to the organisation among working 
women, and to help to work at a newspaper 
for working women, I received a testimonial 
from the manufacturer that praised my diligence 
and extraordinary application. He handed 
it to me with the words : "I wish you may 
find as much appreciation in your new sphere 
of work." 

I was now endlessly happy. I had a sphere 
of work which satisfied all my longings but 
which I had considered quite unattainable for 
myself. It was to me the Promised Land. 
My mother had no pleasure in my altered 
mode of life. She would have preferred me to 
have remained in the factory, and then to have 
married. The old woman, who looked back on 
a long series of sufferings and deprivations, who 
under the most terrible conditions had borne a 
child every two years and had then fed it at the 
breast for sixteen or eighteen months to be 
saved longer from another confinement, this 
woman, crippled and prematurely bent from 
hard work, could picture no other lot for her 
daughter than a good marriage. To marry 

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AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

her daughter well was her thought and aspira- 
tion, and I had much to go through when I 
was still working in the factory, if I refused 
a marriage, the only object of which was to 
lighten my lot and free me from the factory. 
She looked on marriage and children as the 
destiny of a woman. However much at first 
she was flattered by the praise of me that she 
heard, to just the same degree later was she 
displeased when she perceived that I wanted 
to devote myself to public work. The more 
busy I was as a speaker, the more unhappy 
she became. 

Although she was not exactly religious — 
life had been too hard to her for that — still she 
clung very much to appearances. My views, 
which were now quite adverse to religion, roused 
her displeasure, and she repeated everything 
she heard from ignorant or malicious persons 
about Social Democrats. She continually hurt 
and mortified me by these wicked speeches 
about the party to which I had attached myself. 
As through my ever increasing work I often 
came home at a later hour in the evening than 
in her eyes a properly brought up girl should 
do, she began to be ashamed of me. If I came 
home tired and overworked, she waited for 
me to make a scene and abuse me. If I came 
home with a feeling of contentment, because I 
had done useful work elsewhere, this joy was 

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AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

embittered by the scorn which I had to expect 
from her. I often lay in bed for hours weeping, 
weeping bitter tears because Fate was so hard 
on me. 

Now that I had a career that inspired me, 
that gave me happiness and joy, I had to suffer 
because my mother was too old to sympathise 
with me. 

But the thought of leaving her never 
occurred to me. We had borne so much 
sorrow together, how should she not be with 
me now that many dark shadows had vanished 
from me ? For now that my life was so full I 
began to loose more and more the sad thoughts 
of the past. I felt healthy and strong enough 
to bear the heaviest labours of my self-chosen 
work. Only my mother's dislike of it weighed 
ever more heavily on me. She hindered my 
development and I had to drag myself along 
as if in any heavy fetters. 

But I will gratefully mention one attempt 
which was made to bring my mother round 
and reconcile her to her work. 

Friedrich Engels was travelling over the 
Continent and I learnt to know him. He 
possessed a winning kindliness of manner, so 
that I did not feel I was meeting one of the 
great men of the International party. As then 
only few women were working for the party, 
and as the leaders considered the help of 

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AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

women useful, Friedrich Engels interested 
himself even in my development. When he 
talked with me I told him of what was nearest 
my heart — of my mother. He wanted to help 
me and to lighten my path in life. He, with 
August Bebel, came to me in my modest 
suburban home. They wanted to make the 
old lady understand that she ought to be proud 
of her daughter. But my mother, who could 
neither read nor write, and who had never under- 
stood anything of politics, could not understand 
the good intentions of the two leaders. Both 
were famous throughout Europe, their revolu- 
tionary writings and speeches had aroused the 
authorities all over the world ; but they met 
the poor old woman without making any 
impression on her, she did not even know 
their names. 

When we were alone again, she said dis- 
dainfully : ** So you bring old men here." In 
her eyes it was always a question of a wooer 
for me with every man who came, and as it 
was her most earnest longing to see me 
married, every one was looked on in that 
aspect. Our two visitors, one of whom was 
an old man whilst the other could have been 
my father, did not appear to her to be suit- 
able as a husband for her young daughter. 

I would willingly have fulfilled my mother's 
wish to marry ; but I could not give up my 

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AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

ideals merely to be cared for and to be able to 
lead a life free from poverty. I had become 
too independent in my way of thinking. I was 
too deeply penetrated by the conviction that 
Socialism was not only necessary but that it 
would bring about the salvation of the world. 
My belief in it had become unalterable, and 
when I thought of marriage I dreamed of a 
husband who would share my ideals. From 
him I expected not only the happiness that 
comes to like-minded persons striving towards 
the same goal, but also help in my own 
development. This happiness was granted to 
me. I obtained a man for a husband who 
shared my opinions and whose character 
attained the ideal of which I had dreamed. 
There was no greater pleasure to him than to 
witness my enthusiasm for the party for which 
long before I knew of him he had sacrificed 
and suffered. He shared all my sorrows and 
cares, he lightened my path whenever he could. 
He gave up many personal comforts to render 
possible my propaganda work among working 
women. Women had no more sympathetic 
friend than he was, and he often told me how 
it had grieved him when he saw women, 
some of them weak, tender creatures, slipping 
about, up to their knees in dirt, cleaning the 
pavements. In bitter words, he spoke of the 
men who drank or gambled away half their 

124 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

week's wage, whilst wife and children drudged 
at home. 

He honoured the woman worker, not only 
the woman earning wages but also the slave 
to work, the woman busy in her house, and he 
inveighed against the injustice of considering 
the work of the latter, often tiring and exhaust- 
ing, as play. When I went with him from 
home, having already put our room in order 
whilst he was sitting with a book or newspaper, 
he never looked on it as a matter of course 
but as going beyond my duty. 

My mother managed our house, but as in her 
deeply rooted convictions the woman belonged 
to her home, she could not help expressing 
her bitter displeasure at my not keeping ex- 
clusively to my own fireside. To avoid vexa- 
tions I had to devote many hours and many 
a half day to household work which others 
could have done just as well. At night I had 
to make good where I was behind hand in 
consequence either in my writing or my self- 
improvement. 

My mother had been very much against this 
marriage. She could not pardon me for having 
chosen a husband who was old enough to 
have been my father. But she could but 
acknowledge the excellence of his character 
and the worth of his individuality. She 
esteemed him highly, and later had real 

125 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

sympathy with him. How often the tired, 
worn-out man would sit for hours trying to 
make clear to her what a splendid cause was 
Socialism ! He told her of Christ and His 
work to make it more intelligible to her. 
She often agreed with him, but the next day 
she went back to her old opinions. She was 
too old to understand fresh points of view. 

When in the fourth year of our marriage 
I was expecting our first child I busied myself 
much with domestic matters, and stepped into 
my mother's place with the cooking. Now 
that which she had so desired aroused her 
jealousy. She considered herself displaced 
by me, and when my husband spoke gratefully 
of my work as a housekeeper she sought to 
disparage my capabilities. It was touching 
to hear my husband explain to her how 
honourable it was to her daughter to have 
learnt without schooling and instruction that 
which had only with difficulty been taught to 
others. I suffered very much, from these 
actions of my mother's, which did not spring 
from malice but from the disappointment she 
had experienced in me. She had desired my 
marriage so very much, and she had expected 
through it that I should become like other 
women, and make an end to my work at 
meetings. 

Now I was married, but I was not less 
126 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

active than before, and my husband lived 
for the same work. When we came home 
at night she awaited us sitting up in her 
bed and pouring out doleful complaints. She 
reproached us both severely. My husband 
was so full of consideration and so tender- 
hearted that he never spoke a harsh word to 
her. But how he suffered from it, and what 
self-control he exercised ! 

She scoffed and sneered when my husband 
encouraged me to have instruction from a 
teacher because I felt myself so weak in 
spelling and grammar. But my husband also 
encouraged me in my desire to learn foreign 
languages. He was influenced by the thought 
that with more education and greater know- 
ledge I should be better able to serve the 
proletariat. 

Later, when we had children, I often thought 
I should break down under the double burden. 
Many a time I sat by the writing table with 
my infant in my arms and wrote articles whilst 
the household work was still to be done. I 
had no help in the housework except from 
my mother. But my mother was over seventy 
and sickly. If my husband and I had had 
our will, she would long ago have given up 
work. But she would not suffer any one to 
take her place. She was always afraid of 
seeming not to be wanted, and she clung to 

127 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

her sphere of work for which she was no longer 
fit. So I had to work day and night. When 
my child was four months old I was so much 
weakened that one day, just after I had put it 
to sleep, I became insensible. I felt desperate 
at the verdict of the doctor, who said I ought 
not to nurse the infant any longer. I seemed 
to myself to be unworthy, and I pitied my 
child. But all that could have been spared 
me if I had not had to bear more than a 
double burden. When the thought tormented 
me that I could not quite fulfil any of my 
duties, and at the sight of my child I would 
willingly have resolved to give up everything 
else completely during the time it needed 
me most. Then it was my husband who 
encouraged me. He represented to me that 
later, when the child no longer needed my 
peculiar care, I should be unhappy if now 
in the conflict between the duties of mother- 
hood and of my public vocation I withdrew 
altogether from political work. 

When these conflicts recurred with increased 
force after the birth of our second child, my 
husband was already conscious that no great 
length of life would be granted him. He 
saw that I should have to care for, and bring 
up, the children alone. Even before the 
birth of our second child he had felt very 

ill, and had foreseen his approaching end. 

128 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

He had often lamented that he had come in 
my way and had asked me to marry him. He 
saw clearly how difficult it would be for a 
woman to work for, and bring up, two children. 
But even under the difficult conditions under 
which we lived, he had never attempted to 
restrain me from fulfilling my duties for the 
movement. When I had to go away some 
days to meetings, I often entreated : " Do say 
for once that you do not want me to leave 
you alone with the children, then I shall find 
it easier to draw back." But he answered 
in his simple goodness : " For my own sake 
and for that of the children I should wish 
you to stay here ; but as a member of the 
party, I wish that you should not draw back 
from performing your duty." When I was 
away he wrote to me daily about his health 
and the children's. He did not forget any- 
thing that was calculated to make me easy. 
In spite of the heavy burden of work and 
the great responsibility he had to bear, he 
forced himself to save time to look after the 
children and watch over their health. There- 
fore I always understand how heavy public 
work is for a mother, because I know what a 
sacrifice it entails. What has not my husband 
gone without to make such work possible 
for his wife — work which he considered useful 
to the working classes. But from it I have 

129 I 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

also experienced how happy and untroubled 
a marriage can be, if it rests on perfect 
harmony of thought and feeling, when the 
husband recognises the capabilites of his wife, 
and does not only desire that his capabilities 
shall receive recognition from her. 

Alas ! our happiness did not last long. It 
was not even granted us to pass nine years 
of life together. How willingly would he 
have lived perhaps to enjoy an easier future 
with his children. It was not permitted him. 
I myself had long known that he could only 
live a short time. Already, in the second 
year of our marriage, the doctor had drawn 
my attention to the critical state of his health, 
and had prepared me for possibly a sudden 
end. I saw all those years what he suffered, 
and, frightened to death, I often woke 
suddenly on hearing him groan, and saw 
him lose his colour and struggle for breath. 
In the greatest anguish he would often jump 
out of bed, tormented with terrible pains in 
the head. Then, again, cramp in the feet 
would seize him, or he could not sleep 
because he had a fearful empty feeling in the 
head. 

Once when I came home from a long 
propaganda journey which I had undertaken 
at his express wish, I found him so ill that I 
immediately fetched the doctor. My husband 

130 



AtJl'OBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

never again left the sick-bed to which, after 
much persuading, he now betook himself. 

I had learnt to know him as a sick, tired 
man. I have mentioned how I always put 
on my pretty clothes when as a factory worker 
I fetched the Social Democratic paper. There 
I saw my future husband, always suffering, 
often with a grey silk handkerchief round his 
neck. When we had seen one another several 
times, he told me of his solitary existence ; of 
his cold room, in which he froze, and which 
no one heated for him ; and of the uncomfort- 
able life in inns and coffee-houses, that was 
so injurious to his sickly body. I should not 
then have dreamed that I could be his wife. 
But I learned to esteem him more and more, 
and felt hearty sympathy for him. His wise 
prudence and his energetic character impressed 
me. Without his doing anything to cause it, 
the wish grew stronger in me to brighten his 
life and to draw him from his joyless loneli- 
ness. He gave me, as I indeed acknowledged, 
prudent, well-meant advice as to my behaviour 
in various episodes of my life, and I always 
found his advice good and useful. It was 
curious ; he was the first man for whom my 
sympathy increased the more I knew of him. 
In my most secret thoughts I considered the 
question whether I could be happy with him, 
and weeks before he had spoken a word of 

131 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

love to me I considered myself as belonging 
to him. I have never repented entering into 
this marriage. It changed me from a pre- 
cociously serious girl into a joyous woman. 
Only when I became wholly conscious of the 
danger in which he always lived, anxiety came 
again — secret, gnawing anxiety. When I knew 
from the doctor that any excitement might be 
fatal to him, I was constantly striving in secret 
to keep from him anything that might excite 
him. With what difficulty, and how seldom, I 
succeeded ! As he belonged to those extremely 
conscientious men who are resolved to do their 
duty to the utmost and to show no considera- 
tion to themselves, none of those round him, 
myself excepted, had any idea of the need 
for his sparing himself But what courage 
he must have had to discharge the duties 
laid upon him. 

Had we been in good circumstances finan- 
cially, could he only for once have allowed 
himself thorough relaxation and rest from 
the many cares which were laid upon him, he 
would probably have lived some years longer. 
But there was no rest, indulgence, and recrea- 
tion for him, for which his exaggerated con- 
scientiousness concerning the work entrusted 
to him was partly responsible. So he also 
did not share the happiness of living to see 
that for which he was daily ready to sacrifice 

182 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

his life — the growing greatness and power of 
the working classes. 

My mother felt for me for the first time. 
How much she had learnt to prize and love 
my husband can be shown by her exclamation : 
" If only I could have died, and he be spared ! " 
She tried to comfort me, often with the hint 
that I might have another husband — a 
younger one. 

But I had my children ; and I sought comfort 
in the thought that perfect happiness comes to 
no one. And Socialism had given to me so 
much, had lent my life so much peace, that 
I had strength to go through much without 
succumbing. To be inspired to serve a great 
cause gives so much joy, and lends such 
high worth to life, that one can bear very 
much without losing courage. I learnt to 
acknowledge that in my own experience. 

When I felt the necessity of writing how 
I became a Socialist, it was solely with the 
wish of encouraging those numerous working 
women who possess hearts full of a longing 
desire to do something ; but who always draw 
back again, because they do not trust their 
own capabilities. Socialism could change and 
strengthen others, as it did me. The more 
consciously I became a Socialist, the more free 

183 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

and strong I felt to meet all opponents. My 
belief in Socialism had become strong as a 
rock, and I was never tempted for a moment 
to waver in it. 

When, after my marriage, I was once im- 
prisoned on account of a critique on the 
present institution of marriage, I never for a 
moment thought of repentance as I sat lonely 
in my bare cell. On the contrary, when in the 
twilight I walked up and down my solitary 
cell, which I could pace with fourteen stepSi 
I meditated on how I could make up for my 
lost time. I worked at educating myself further 
in Socialism, and read scientific books, for 
which I had usually no time. When my 
husband came to visit me, I could not wait to 
read the party organ which he secretly slipped 
into my hands. It was not pleasant in the cell 
with the peephole, through which th^ warder 
could look as often as he pleased. How 
frightened I was when at six in the morning 
the warder came with a prisoner to bring 
water ; how it robbed me of sleep if the gas 
was left burning at night in the cell so that 
they could see me at any time through the 
peephole ! In the exercise in the courtyard 
I had to walk ten steps behind the other 
prisoners so that they might not talk politics 
with me. And if one woman remained behind 
to address me and ask the reason of my 

134 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A WORKING WOMAN 

presence there, how vulgarly and roughly she 
was abused by the warder ! 

On my bed I fancied I was lying on stones, 
and my limbs ached from the hardness ; but 
no thought of repentance came to me. My 
confidence was deep-rooted that the truth of 
the saying of George Herwegh's, which so 
often adorns the walls at workmen's festivals, 
would be realised by the victorious power of 
the proletarian struggle for freedom : — 

" What do we desire of the distant future ? 
That we may be provided with bread and work ; 
That our children may learn in the schools ; 
And that our old people may not go begging." 

Who really desires to help make Herwegh's 
words reality must shrink from no difficulty. 
The goal is wonderfully beautiful ; it is so 
promising that strength can be found to 
conquer any difficulty in the way. If I have 
succeeded in helping to this end in my modest 
work, then I have attained my aim. 



135 



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